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What to Do If Someone Is Choking in Public

May 28, 2019

What to Do If Someone Is Choking in Public

The most common choking cause by far is food, and many choking emergencies occur in places where lots of people eat, like restaurants and care facility dining rooms. Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were out to eat at dinner and someone nearby began choking? Have you ever seen such an emergency yourself?

It’s a scary thought, but we believe in the power of preparedness. Here are some tips on what to do if someone is choking when you’re out in public.

Determine whether the person is really choking.

This may sound simple, but it’s an important distinction. Coughing and gagging may be signs that a choking emergency is near, but a person is really only choking and in need of help if they become silent. This is a sign that the airway is completely blocked, and that’s when it’s time to take action. Someone who is coughing, gagging or able to talk still has some air flowing, and they may dislodge the food or other object on their own. You can learn more about the differences here. In a public emergency where you are approaching a stranger, it’s also a good idea to clearly ask, “Are you choking? Do you need help?”

Have someone call 911.

If you’re with people or there are others around, tell someone with a cellphone to call 911 immediately after you determine the victim is indeed choking.

Begin first-aid treatments.

Once you’re sure the victim is choking, first-aid treatments should begin as quickly as possible, because brain damage can start after just a few moments without air. Decide whether you or someone else in the area will provide treatment. Then have the victim stand up and alternate between these two methods:

  • Abdominal thrusts: Also known as the Heimlich maneuver, abdominal thrusts involve standing behind the choking victim, wrapping your arms around them, making a fist with one hand over the other just below their ribcage, and thrusting firmly inward and upward. Repeat five times.
  • Back slaps: With the heel of your palm, firmly slap between the choking victim’s shoulder blades, repeating five times. If the object remains stuck, keep alternating between these two treatments.

It’s important to remain calm throughout this process to help the victim stay calm, as well. You should also never try to reach into the choking person’s mouth to remove the object. This usually just pushes it further into the airway.

If the choking victim becomes unconscious at any point, you or another person can begin CPR if you feel comfortable. Continue until first responders arrive.

Another Option: The Dechoker

The steps above represent the best first-aid methods we have in place for choking emergencies, but they unfortunately come with the risk of injury. What’s more, it can feel rather daunting to perform these treatments on a complete stranger in a public place.

We offer an alternative solution. In situations where the common first-aid treatments are ineffective, The Dechoker is an easy-to-use device that can clear a person’s airway in just seconds. We believe there should be a Dechoker in every restaurant, school and other public place in the world.

Learn more about how The Dechoker works here.


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