Are you prepared to help a choking victim?

Choking is a medical emergency that occurs when the airway has been completely blocked by a foreign object, most often food. In 2011, choking was the fourth most common cause of unintentional, injury-related death in the United States.

So how can you help? The first step is to be aware of the signs of choking. The universal sign of a choking can be recognized as the victim having their hands at their throat. They will not be able to speak, or move any air in or out of their lungs.

Adults and Choking

If you identify a person who is choking, call 911 immediately. If the person is choking and is still conscious, start with five firm back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

If the person is still choking, and is NOT pregnant, perform abdominal thrusts, or the Heimlich maneuver.

To perform the Heimlich maneuver,

  1. Stand behind the person and wrap your arms around their waist.
  2. Place a clenched fist above the persons navel, and just below the breast bone, and grab your fist with your other hand.
  3. Quickly pull inward and upward as if trying to lift the person up.
  4. Perform a total of five abdominal thrusts.
  5. If the blockage is still not dislodged, continue cycles of five back blows, and five abdominal thrusts until the object is coughed up or the person starts to breathe or cough.
  6. Only remove an object from a persons mouth if you can see it. Never do a finger sweep if you cannot see the obstructing object.

If the person is pregnant or obese, perform high abdominal thrusts by placing your hands at the base of breast bone.

If the person becomes unresponsive, perform CPR until emergency personnel arrive on scene.

Children and Choking

Young children are prone to choking due to their small airway. If you believe your child is choking, but is gagging and able to breathe and talk, contact 911 and do not do anything but observe the child. If your child cannot breathe, you must act quickly.

If the child is younger than one year of age, and conscious:

  1. Hold the child face down onto your forearm, supported by your thigh.
  2. Keep the child’s torso higher than their head.
  3. Give five firm back blows between the shoulder blades using the heel of your hand.
  4. Turn the child over, if the child is still conscious, place two to three fingers in the center of the child’s breast bone and deliver five quick abdominal thrusts.
  5. Repeat back blows and abdominal thrusts as necessary until the obstruction is dislodged, or the child becomes unresponsive.
  6. Do not try to pull the object out unless you can see it clearly.

If the child becomes unresponsive, lay the child on the floor and perform CPR until emergency personnel arrive.