Essential First Aid: How to help a choking victim

Essential First Aid: How to help a choking victim

Sarah McLoughlin
Posted by Sarah McLoughlin

Date: Thursday, 31 August 2017. -  
Blog, First Aid, First Aid Emergencies, Health & Safety

You and a friend are eating lunch together and you suddenly see them grab their throat and begin to panic. You realise that they are, in fact, choking. Would you know how to help in this situation?

Choking occurs as a result of a partially or fully blocked airway. Choking in adults most commonly occurs when food becomes stuck in the wind wipe, reducing the airflow and as a result, leaves the victim struggling to breathe. A serious lack of airflow brought on by choking can cause brain damage or even death by asphyxiation.  

What is Choking?

In infants, choking often occurs as a result of small toys or objects becoming lodged in the throat or windpipe. Babies especially love to put objects they come across in their mouths such as coins, buttons and other things that can be classed as a choking hazard to infants. It is therefore important that these objects are kept out of reach from infants in order to reduce the risk of them choking. Whereas in adults, the cause of choking is usually from food, perhaps when meals have been rushed.

Choking can also occur as a result of swelling due to a severe allergic reaction and from an injury or trauma. Without immediate first aid attention, the result of choking can be serious and even fatal so it is important to be equipped and prepared. Ensuring you Know what to do if you experienced a victim that was choking could potentially make a life-saving difference.

Signs to look out for that indicate a person is choking will usually be a person’s inability to speak or cough although their face may also change colour. The universal choking sign may be made as the victim will not be able to verbally communicate. Instead, grabbing or pointing to the throat will confirm to you that they are choking.

Helping a Choking Adult

If a person’s airway gets severely blocked, they will be unable to cough and without assistance, they will become unresponsive. If you think someone is choking, you can help to clear their throat with the following steps:

  1. Encourage them to cough
  2. Deliver five hard back blows between their shoulder blades
  3. Position yourself behind the victim and administer 5 abdominal thrusts
  4. If the victim is still choking, call 999 for medical assistance

It is important to act fast to try and clear the victim’s airway immediately to allow them to breathe.

Helping a Choking Infant

Sadly, choking is the third most common cause of infant death in the UK. Essential first aid knowledge and knowing what to do in this situation will prevent more deaths from occurring as a result of choking. Additionally, ensuring small objects that could easily become lodged in an infant’s throat are out of reach will help to reduce the risk of infants choking.

Parents have previously been reminded to chop up grapes before giving them to small children as the size and shape of them could potentially block an infant’s airway completely. This was advised in the British Medical Journal following a number of tragic deaths.

If an infant is choking they will usually be unable to speak and they will be struggling to breathe. Follow the vital steps below to ensure you are equipped to help an infant that is choking.

  1. If you can see the object, try to remove it
  2. If the child is coughing loudly, encourage and stay with them
  3. If the child cannot cough or breathe properly seek immediate medical attention
  4. Deliver five back blows between their shoulder blades using the heel of your hand*

*For infants under one year, deliver back blows with your baby in a face down position, supporting their head. If the airway has not cleared after this, chest thrusts should be given to infants under one year by lying your baby facing up on your thighs. Using two fingers, find the breastbone and place two fingers in the middle, giving five sharp pushes.

For an infant over one, position and support them in a forward-leaning position. If the airway is still obstructed, abdominal thrusts can be given to infants over the age of one.

It is important to seek medical attention even if you successfully clear the child’s airway as part of the object could have been left behind.

Essential Knowledge

If the victim becomes unresponsive at any stage, open their airway and check for breathing. If at any point the victim becomes unconscious, it is important to begin CPR immediately. CPR is an essential life-saving skill that everyone should have. Does your first aid knowledge need brushing up? Explore our First Aid Training options to ensure you are able to provide effective CPR in an emergency situation.

If you have any questions, head on over to our twitter page @imptraining and a member of the team will be happy to assist you.