Choking is a blockage in the windpipe that makes it difficult or impossible for a person to breathe because air cannot pass into the lungs. Somebody who is choking will often do so quietly, initially turning red as he or she struggles to take air in, grasping at the neck and mouth and eventually losing color, with a blue tinge on the lips. Without treatment, a person will become unconscious and will die. Choking in adults is often as a result of eating a meal too quickly or of eating on the move.
TREATMENT FOR AN ADULT WHO IS CHOKING
If the victim is able to speak or cough, then the situation is less serious. Encourage him or her to continue coughing if able. Check the mouth to see if any obstacle can be easily removed. Do not sweep in the mouth blindly, and take great care not to push down into the throat. If at any time the person show signs of becoming weak, stops breathing or coughing, or begins to lose color and turn blue, perform the Heimlich maneuver immediately.
THE HEIMLICH MANEUVER
The purpose of this maneuver is to displace any obstruction blocking the windpipe by forcing a cough. Stand or kneel behind the casualty and put both arms around the upper abdomen. Clench your fist and place it, thumb side in, between the belly button and the bottom of the breastbone. Grasp it with your other hand. Keep your arms away from the ribcage and pull sharply inwards and upward 4 times. This movement thrusts the diaphragm up toward the lungs, creating a cough.
For a casualty who is lying down or unconscious, place the heel of one hand just below the breastbone. Place the other hand on top and give 4 short, upward thrusts.
If the obstruction is still not relieved, repeat the maneuver. Recheck the mouth for any object that can be reached with a finger and remove it if possible. Perform the maneuver 3 times, then call for emergency help.
WHAT IF THE PERSON BECOMES UNCONSCIOUS?
Open the airway by tilting the head, checking the mouth, and lifting the chin. If the victim is breathing, falling unconscious might have freed the object sufficiently to allow air through. Turn the person into the recovery position, maintaining a careful check on breathing. If the victim is not breathing, provide rescue breathing and move on to the normal CPR procedures.
If you know that the person has choked and the chest does not rise when rescue breathing is attempted, move straight to chest compressions without assessment of circulation. Check the mouth after every set of compressions. The chest compressions act as an artificial cough and may help expel the object from the windpipe. Make sure that you call for emergency help as soon as possible.