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First Aid Guide: Foreign object inhaled

Team AckoJul 28, 2023

If you inhale a foreign object through your nose, mouth, or respiratory tract, it may become trapped, causing breathing difficulties or choking. It may also result in Inflammation and infection. Here’s a First Aid guide in the case of inhalation of a foreign object.




What is the meaning of ‘foreign object inhaled’?

Foreign object inhaled refers to the unexpected entry of a foreign object into the airways via the nose. Depending on where the object is lodged, this condition can be moderate or serious, necessitating immediate medical intervention. Complications related to foreign objects Inhaled may either be immediate or delayed.

Immediate difficulties usually emerge when a foreign object becomes trapped in the glottal opening, larynx, or trachea, either entirely or partially restricting the movement of air to both lungs.

What happens if a foreign object is inhaled?

You may choke if you unknowingly inhale an object. When a foreign object partially or fully blocks the throat or trachea (breathing tube), air cannot reach the lungs. The following are some symptoms of choking.

  • Contracting throat

  • Coughing or wheezing

  • Trouble breathing, speaking, or swallowing

  • Generating a whistling sound

  • Blue lips or skin 

  • Asphyxia (unable to breathe)

  • Loss of consciousness

However, lower degrees of blockage may result in less severe symptoms such as prolonged wheezing (a whistling sound while breathing), a chronic cough, coughing up blood (haemoptysis), and fever.

The specific symptoms and severity of the illness are determined by the size of the blockage and where it got stuck in the airways. Affected individuals frequently exhibit initial signs of choking and coughing before developing further respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or persistent coughing. 

On the other hand, foreign object inhalation can be fatal in cases of extreme severity. As a result, any foreign object that lodges in the airways should be handled as a medical emergency.

Quick action: First Aid for foreign objects inhaled

While waiting for assistance from a qualified medical expert, the following First Aid measures for 'foreign object inhaled' may be implemented.

For Adults

  • Encourage the patient to cough if the blockage is mild; otherwise, do nothing but monitor progress

  • In the case of a significant obstruction in a conscious patient, stand towards the side a little behind the victim, hold the victim's chest with one hand, and tilt the person forward (so that the obstructing object exits through the mouth) 

  • With the heel of your other palm, apply up to five quick back blows.

  • In the case of an unconscious patient, lay the patient on the floor. Begin CPR (even if the unconscious patient has a pulse). Call an ambulance right away.

For Children

  • If the child is coughing effectively, simply encourage them to cough and observe consistently.

  • If coughing is ineffective, call for assistance and check the child's conscious state.

  • If the child is conscious, administer up to five back strikes, followed by five thrusts to the chest and abdomen, respectively (continue the process until the blockage is removed or the patient goes unconscious).

  • If the child goes unconscious, place them on a flat surface and call for assistance. Look inside the mouth for any noticeable objects. If you see one, try to remove it with a single finger sweep (do not use blind finger sweeps).

  • If that fails, start CPR as for paediatric basic life support. Start with five breaths of rescue, monitoring for chest movement each time.


Infants and young kids are especially prone to foreign object inhalation. This is due to the fact that babies are inherently curious and investigate their surroundings by putting objects in their mouths. Additionally, the airways of kids are also small, and their cough reflexes may not be fully developed.

Here are a few steps you may try to lower the risk of choking and foreign object inhalation in young children.

  • When kids are eating or drinking, make sure they are sitting properly.

  • Children under the age of five should not be given hard or round items such as entire nuts or grapes.

  • Toys having small parts should be kept for children above the age of three.

  • Keep plastic bags out of the reach of small children.

  • Keep tiny objects out of reach of young children. For example, needles, safety pins, coins, magnets, batteries, and buttons should be kept away from them.

  • Learn to administer infant and child CPR.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about first aid for foreign objects inhaled.


What are the main symptoms of foreign objects inhaled?

When a person's airway gets blocked because of inhaling a foreign object, they may experience the following symptoms.

  • Contracting throat

  • Coughing or wheezing

  • Trouble breathing, speaking, or swallowing

  • Generating a whistling sound

  • Blue lips or skin 

  • Asphyxia (inability to breathe)

  • Loss of consciousness

Can a foreign object be Inhaled into the lungs?

Yes. An object aspirated into the airways could block the bronchi, which are the two channels that carry air into the lungs. 

What are the treatment options for foreign object inhalation?

The procedure used for removing a foreign object is determined by the object's size, shape, and exact location. During an incident of a foreign object inhalation, First Aid is often given by encouraging the affected person to cough or by giving back blows and abdominal thrusts.


 Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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