What to do when someone is choking

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Health Lady
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Do you know what to do when someone is choking

This might have happened with you at some point of time. You are having dinner with your family or a group of friends and suddenly someone among you starts coughing. The intensity of the coughing increases as the person tries to clear his throat. You want to help but are unsure of what you should do in such a situation.

Choking while eating is quite a common phenomenon. It occurs when the air passage suddenly gets blocked, either partially or completely and the person finds it difficult to breathe. It can restrict the flow of oxygen supply to the brain, hence it is crucial to act fast in such a situation.

It can happen to anyone, be it an adult or a one-year-old kid. Choking is common when you drink water or talk between your meals. It might seem a small harmless event but can even turn fatal. We will tell you how to save someone’s life in such a situation.

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Signs of choking

Although coughing heavily is a common sign of choking but there are other signals as well to identify if the person is having difficulty in breathing due to obstruction in the windpipe. Here are some signs you must look for:

  • Difficulty in talking
  • Breathing issue or noisy breathing
  • Squeaky sounds when trying to breathe
  • Forceful coughing
  • Skin, lips and nails turning blue
  • Loss of consciousness

Your response depends on the person’s condition. If the person is able to cough forcefully then he should do it. It would help to remove the obstruction. In case the person cannot talk or do anything, then it is recommended to try a “five-and-five” approach to clear the airways passage.

​Five-and-five approach:

American Red Cross recommends a five-and-five approach when someone is choking. In this you will have to give five back blows followed by five abdominal thrusts to dislodge the blockage.

How to perform abdominal thrusts:

Step 1: Stand behind the person and wrap your arms around the waist. In case of a child keel down.
Step 2: Slightly bend the person forward. Make a fist with one hand and place it just above the navel. Grasp the fist with the other hand.
Step 3: Apply some pressure in the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust- like you are trying to lift the person up.

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How to perform back blow:

Step 1: Stand on the side of the person choking and place an arm across the person’s chest for support.
Step 2: Slightly bend the person over at the waist in such a way that the upper body is parallel with the ground.
Step 3: Deliver five back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your other hand.

The bottom line

If the condition of the person does not improve even after giving the first aid then call for an ambulance. If the person becomes unconscious, perform standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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