Choking occurs when an object lodges in the throat or windpipe, blocking the normal flow of air outwards. Children are more prone to choking on small toys, milk/formula and large/hard foods, whilst adults frequently choke on food. Choking can be very dangerous as it can prevents oxygen from reaching the brain if the object isn't dislodged quickly and effectively.
Clenching or grabbing the throat is the universal sign of choking in adults but children may/may not be able to alert others using this sign. Instead, particularly for babies, they may become suddenly, very agitated, with the inability to cry or cough, and/or may have a pale/blue/red appearance to their face. Some children may attempt to dislodge the object by coughing.
Other Key signs of choking include:
Inability to talk
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Loss of conciousness
Urgent efforts to improve/dislodge whatsoever is causing the choking or even CPR is important in this situation. Here are a few steps that can guide you.
If a child has the ability to cough during a choking situation, encourage him/her to continue coughing. This will help to dislodge the object. In a case a young baby/infant or child who is unable to cough, immediately call 911 and bend the child over. Using the inner part of the wrist, give 5 firm blows to the back of the child in efforts to dislodge the object. This action can also be performed in adults.
If the child becomes unreponsive immediately place them on their back and perform CPR. Never use your finger or hand or even a tool or another object to try to reach the culprit causing the choking. This can cause further obstruction.
In an adult male or non pregnant female, stand behind the person. Wrap both arms around their stomach with one grasping the other. Locate the soft area just below the rib cage in line with the belly button and thrust in and up. This is called the Heimlich Maneuver.
In pregnant or obese women, perform this action at the base of the breast bone/bra line rather than the stomach.
This helps the lungs to forcefully dislodge the blockage. Again if the person goes unresponsive immediately perform CPR.
Remember, time is in the essence. The faster efforts are made during choking the better for the victim. Don't play the hero. Call 911 if you cannot dislodge the object despite all that you have done.