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How You Can Know and Help Someone Who is Choking

Any problem that affects the airways can be life threatening if immediate action is not taken. In most cases, when we experience choking, we are able to expel the foreign body easily by a simple cough. In other cases, use of Heimlick maneuver is required in order to save someone's life.

It is true that we all have experienced some form of choking one time or another and most probably, you were able to clear it by just a simple cough. Choking occurs when there is a foreign body along the airway that interferes with the normal flow of air in and out of the lungs.  In most cases, it happens during meal time or as a result of aspiration of other forms of foreign bodies. Any form of airway obstructions can be a life threatening situation and appropriate measures should be taken as soon as possible in order to save life. 

How  Can You Tell if Someone is Choking

This will depends on what type of obstruction the victim is experiencing. There are two types of airway obstruction; partial and complete airway obstruction. In partial obstruction there is still some air that reaches the lung and the person is able to cough or make some noises. In complete obstruction, no air passes through the lung and person may display the universal sign of choking; clutching of the throat/neck by use of both hands. 

How to Help Someone Who is Choking

If the person is experiencing partial obstruction and can be able to cough, continue encouraging him or her to cough. This help in expelling the foreign body out of the airway. Do not try to give anything to victim like water or any form of drink. This can cause the foreign body to be driven further to the bronchi or bronchioles causing injuries. Do not also try to remove the foreign body with your finger, unless you can clearly visualize it.

The most commonly method used in dislodging a foreign body is the abdominal thrust also known as Heimlich maneuvers. Heimlich maneuvers helps in removing the foreign body by simply dislodging and expelling it.  The pressure exerted on the diaphragm by the forceful thrusts help in getting air into the lungs creating a powerful cough that is enough to pops out the foreign body out of the airway.   

To Perform Heimlich Maneuvers

  • Stand behind the victim or the person experiencing the choking.
  • Put your hands around the waste of the victim.
  • Make a fist by use of only one hand. The thumb should be outside of the fist.
  • Make sure that you position your fist just slightly above the navel and below the xiphoid process.
  • Place the other hand on top of the fist.
  • Thrust rapidly and forcefully by exerting pressure against the victim’s diaphragm.
  • Use inwards and upwards motion.
  • Continue doing this until the foreign body is expelled out.

If you are alone and chocking, you can still do the same maneuver. Look for something that has a height that is above your waist line. This can be a chair, table or anything else. To perform; make a fist, place the other hand on top of the fist, place your hand above the navel line and press it on the table or whatever you are using with downwards, upwards motion. Repeat this maneuver until the airway is cleared. If the victim choking is obese or a pregnant woman, use chest thrust instead of abdominal thrust.

The above method of performing Heimlich maneuver is only done if the victim is a conscious adult who is experiencing choking. If the victim is unconscious, a child or an infant, other methods of Heimlich maneuvers are performed.  You should continue performing this maneuver until the object is expelled or the emergency care services arrive.  In either way, a person should be encouraged to consult a physician for further examination. 

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Comments (3)
Ranked #3 in First Aid & CPR

Great awareness and first-aid advice, thank you G+.

very useful first-aid advice. can be life-saving. thanks!

Ranked #3 in First Aid & CPR

Revisiting for my V.

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