Thousands of people die from choking every year, as it is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death. Food is often the cause of choking incidents, as for the elderly it could be related to having dentures and difficulty swallowing. If you see someone clutching their throat, coughing, gagging, wheezing or passed out, here are some rescue tips to help a choking victim out.
The Heimlich Maneuver
If you see someone coughing forcefully, encourage them to keep coughing to clear their airway. A person who can’t breathe, speak, or cough needs immediate help. If you notice that someone is choking, let them know you will be performing abdominal thrusts, known as the Heimlich Maneuver. It is highly recommended that this procedure not be performed to children younger than 1.
- Stand behind the victim with one leg forward in between the victim’s legs. For a child, move down to their level and keep your head to one side.
- Make a fist and reach around the abdomen and locate the navel. Place the thumb side of your fist just above the navel.
- Grasp the first with your other hand and thrust inward and upward towards the victim’s abdomen with quick jerks.
- Continue thrusts until the victim expels the object or becomes unresponsive.
- Even after the choking stops, seek medical attention.
Unresponsive Victims and CPR
If the victim becomes unresponsive, lower the person to the ground, expose their chest and start CPR. Make sure to look inside the mouth and remove any objects.
- Tilt their head back and lift the chin to open the airway.
- Give two rescue breaths.
- Compress the chest about 2 inches deep, 30 times, at a steady rate of at least 100 per minute while counting out loud.
- Continue that cycle until the victim wakes up or professional help arrives.
A few simple behaviors, such as chewing your food slowly, not drinking too much alcohol, and cutting your food into smaller pieces can help prevent choking. For small children especially, make sure to keep small objects out of reach, cut their food into small pieces, and supervise them while they are eating and playing.