Choking occurs when a person’s airway gets partly or fully blocked. It can be caused by unexpected foreign objects in food or drinks; sudden coughing, laughing or events, like slips, trips and falls, for example.
How to help someone who is choking depends on whether the choking is mild or severe. Note: The procedures below are suitable for adults and children over the age of one only.
Help someone who is choking mildly
Individuals with only partly blocked airways are typically able to breathe, cough, cry or speak and remove blockages on their own. Here is how to help someone choking mildly:
- Encourage them to keep coughing to attempt to clear the blockage
- If the object is in their mouth, ask them to try and spit it out
- Do not put fingers into their mouth, as they may accidentally bite you
If the blockage cannot be cleared by coughing, it may be necessary to administer back blows.
Help someone who is choking severely
Severe choking renders a person unable to breathe, cough, speak or cry. Unless helped, the individual will eventually be rendered unconscious. To help someone who is choking severely:
- Stand behind and slightly to one side of the individual
- Supporting his/her chest with your hand, lean them forward so the object causing the blockage can come out through their mouth
- Use the heel of your hand (between your palm and wrist) to sharply administer up to five blows between the shoulder blades.
If this does not clear the blockage, administration of abdominal thrusts may become necessary.
Administering abdominal thrusts
Note: Abdominal thrusts should not be given to pregnant women or babies younger than 12 months.
Giving abdominal thrusts:
- Placing your arms around the person’s waist, bend them forward
- Clench a fist and position it immediately above the person’s belly button
- Place the other hand on your fist and sharply pull up and inwards
If necessary, repeat the movement up to another four times. Should this fail too clear the blockage, or the persons loses consciousness, call emergency services immediately.
Abdominal thrusts can themselves cause potentially serious personal injuries. Recipients of this treatment must subsequently be examined by medical professionals as soon after the incident as possible.
If you choked on unexpected foreign objects in your food or drinks or sustained another slip, trip or fall injury and someone else was responsible for your injury, call 0800 689 0500 or 0333 500 0993 to see if you are eligible to claim and get the help of one of our in-house injury solicitors.
Date Published: December 9, 2015
Author: David Brown