top of page
  • Writer's pictureSasha

Know how to help a choking victim

Know how to help a choking victim

Choking is when the upper airway is blocked by food or other objects completely or partially, preventing the person from breathing effectively. The partial choking can lead to simple coughing and discomfort, but the complete blockage of a person’s airway can lead to death. When the airway is obstructed, the person is not getting oxygen, and this lack of oxygen can cause brain damage within four to six minutes. If swift action is not taken to immediately free an airway that is completely blocked, then the chances of survival and total recovery diminish rapidly. However, if the cause of the choking is quickly removed and the person’s breathing returns to normal, they should make a complete recovery.

Causes of Choking

In adults and children, most often than not, choking occurs due to food that is not properly chewed. Also, talking while eating could make a piece of food go down the wrong lane. In addition, if someone has been drinking alcohol or taking drugs and has some kind of sicknesses such as Parkinson’s disease, their normal swallowing mechanism may be slowed. In older adults, other factors include poorly fitting dental work and aging. In children, trying to swallow too much food at once can also cause choking. Also, putting small objects such as nuts, coins, or marbles that could lodge in their throats is a choking hazard.

Signs and Symptoms of Choking

Clutching of the throat with one or both hands is the natural response to choking. It is the universal sign and a means of letting the people around you know that you are choking. Other signs of choking include

  • Gagging or coughing

  • Being unable to talk suddenly

  • Passing out

  • Wheezing

  • Skin turning blue which can be seen earliest around the lips, fingernail beds, and face. Other critical choking signs might appear before this one does.

  • In the case of an infant, since they might not know universal signs, you have to pay more attention to them and check for difficulty in breathing, weak cough, or cry.

If someone around you is displaying any of these signs of choking, then move quickly to render help to the person. If the person can still cough forcefully and they are not turning bluish, it is best to do nothing. Just ask the person if they are choking, and if the person can answer you by speaking, then it is partial airway obstruction. Stay with the person and encourage them to keep coughing until whatever is causing the obstruction has been cleared. Do not give the person anything to drink as the fluids could take up the space required for the passage of air. If the person cannot answer you by speaking and can only nod their head, their airway is completely blocked, and they require emergency help. Then ask for the person’s permission to help them out and if they agree, again, by nodding, then let the person know that you will be performing abdominal thrusts (also known as Heimlich maneuver) on them. To do this

  • Slightly lean the person forward, stand behind them, placing one of your legs between theirs.

  • Make a fist with one of your hands, and then reach around the person and place the thumb side of your fist against the person’s abdomen. Place it just above the navel.

  • Grasp your fist firmly with the other hand and then make quick and hard thrusts inward and upward to help the person cough up whatever is causing them to choke. If the person is pregnant or bigger than you, and you can’t get your hand around them, perform chest thrusts for them instead, but ensure to avoid squeezing their ribs with your arms.

  • Continue performing these thrusts until the person’s airway clears up or they become unresponsive.

  • After the choking has stopped, seek medical attention.

If the choking person becomes unresponsive, lay the person on the ground and then open their chest to start performing CPR. Firstly, check inside the victim’s mouth, and if you find any object, remove it. Then

  • Place your two hands on the center of the person’s chest.

  • Compress their chest about 1 ½ to 2 inches deep, and perform 30 compressions in approximately 18 seconds, amounting to 100 compressions per minute.

  • Open the airway by lifting the chin.

  • Give the victim two rescue breaths lasting 1 second each, and look in their mouth each time for any object. Remove anyone you find.

  • Continue with the 30 compressions and two breaths until emergency medical services arrive or the obstruction clears and the person can start breathing normally on their own.


Choking is a real medical emergency that requires swift and appropriate action by anyone close by, seeing as an emergency medical team might not arrive in time to save the person’s life. Therefore, knowing the appropriate steps to take and doing so accordingly will truly help someone.

5 views0 comments
bottom of page