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Choking First Aid: What to Do When Someone's Choking

January 01, 2020

Choking First Aid: What to Do When Someone's Choking

What's the first thing you should do when someone starts choking? Not sure? Here's your complete guide to the abdominal thrust and choking first aid.

After one minute without air, brain cells begin to die, and after three minutes, a person is likely to suffer serious brain damage. So, when a person starts choking, they require fast action.

Choking first aid can literally make the difference between life and death. Learn how to quickly identify the signs of choking and take the proper course of action.

A Brief Guide to Choking First Aid

Don't choke when you see somebody choking. A choking victim needs prompt attention.

Equip yourself with the information necessary to save a life!

Choking Definition

First, let's define choking. It refers to the blockage of air passage to the trachea. 

When a person chokes, their lungs do not receive enough or any air. This can quickly result in brain damage or death.

Signs of Choking

Ask a person, 'Are you choking?" If they can clearly say yes, then no. 

Choking blocks the airway, and in turn, makes speech impossible. Look for these signs of choking:

  • Coughing, gagging, or wheezing
  • Inability to speak
  • Panic
  • Using hand signals or grabbing at the throat
  • Darkening around the mouth
  • Passing out

How to Help Someone Choking

Do not hesitate. Take the following measures when you see a choking victim:

Call 911

If you see somebody choking, call 911 immediately. Even if you can successfully remove the obstruction and get them breathing, they may need prompt medical attention.

Encourage Coughing

Once you call for help, ask the person to cough. Coughing out the obstruction will prevent you from accidentally hurting them via other methods.

Have them cough 3 or 4 times. If this does not work, then take further measures.

Give Back Blows

Using the heel of your hand, hit the person 5 times between the shoulder blades. Use force as the point is to dislodge an object from their throat. 

Use an Anti-Choking Device

If available, use an anti-choking device, like the Dechoker. This first aid tool attaches to the victim's mouth, and with a pull of the plunger-like device, turns into a vacuum. This can safely remove objects lodged in the airway, without using forceful thrusts that can potentially cause further injury.

Proceed with the Abdominal Thrust Maneuver 

The abdominal thrust is as follows: A first-aid procedure that applies pressure over the naval to remove an obstruction from the windpipe.

If an anti-choking device is not available, resort to the abdominal thrust maneuver:

  • Wrap your arms around the victim's waist from behind
  • Clasp your hands and place your thumb below the victim's rib cage
  • Use a fast, upward thrust to press the abdomen
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

You can break the ribs if you thrust too high. Only do this if the other methods fail you.

Also, note that you cannot perform the abdominal thrust like this on an infant. Lay the baby facing up on a firm surface, place two fingers from each hand below their rib cage and above the navel, and gently thrust upward until you dislodge the object.

Here's more about what to do if your baby or toddler is choking.

Act Fast to Save a Life

Anybody can choke. Knowing choking first aid can allow you to help a stranger or save your own child.

We made the Dechoker so that people could safely save others from choking. See how the anti-choking device works on our website!


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