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What Really Happens When Someone Is Choking

February 27, 2019

What Really Happens When Someone Is Choking

When we were developing our innovative, easy-to-use Dechoker device, it was important for us to understand exactly what choking is. Learning what goes on when a person chokes gave us valuable information about how to respond. That information can be valuable for you, too. If you ever encounter a choking emergency, understanding what’s happening can help you save a life.

Choking occurs when food or another object blocks a person’s airway. This prevents him or her from getting vital oxygen. Some people are more prone to choking than others. For example, young children have high rates of choking deaths because they have very small windpipes and tend to put things in their mouths that don’t belong there. Elderly adults and people who have medical conditions that make swallowing difficult are also more likely to choke than a typical adult.

When a person chokes, the airway blockage is either “partial” or “complete.” A partial blockage is when food or another object is caught in the throat but some air is still getting through. Usually, this causes the person to cough and gag. Complete obstruction means the airway is completely blocked. No air can get through. In this case, the choking victim needs emergency first aid fast. Just a few minutes without oxygen can cause brain damage and then death.

Though choking on coins and other household objects is common with children, the most common choking cause is food. These are some of the most common food hazards, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Hot dogs and sausages
  • Hard candy and chewing gum
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grapes
  • Raw carrots and apples
  • Popcorn
  • Peanut butter
  • Marshmallows

Parents and caregivers of those who are prone to choking should be sure to cut these foods into small bites and watch their loved ones closely while eating. Parents of young children should also make a constant habit of putting away small household objects that could be choking risks.

Taking steps to prevent choking is important, but know that choking emergencies can still occur. That’s why we created a first-aid treatment that nearly anyone can use. The Dechoker is a simple device with a suction plunger and face mask. To help someone who is choking on food or another object, you simply apply the face mask and pull back on the plunger. This creates suction that moves the object, often clearing the airway within seconds. The Dechoker is so simple that many choking victims can even use it on themselves.

Other common choking treatments such as abdominal thrusts can be harder to perform and come with the risk of injury. We encourage every parent or caregiver to be familiar with these first-aid methods. We also believe the easy-to-use Dechoker should be available in every restaurant, emergency vehicle and family first-aid kit.

You can read more about how the Dechoker works here, as well as find tips for choking prevention and treatment elsewhere on our blog.

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