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How to treat choking

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Choking is the mechanical obstruction of the flow of air from the environment into the lungs that prevents breathing. It can be partial or complete. During a partial choking, there is inadequate flow of air to the lungs. Prolonged and complete choking will result in asphyxia which will lead to anoxia which is very dangerous.

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Oxygen in the blood and lungs can keep the victim alive for several minutes after breathing stops completely. Asphyxia is the lack of oxygen or excess of carbon dioxide in the body resulting to unconsciousness and death caused by interruption of breathing or there is an inadequate supply of oxygen.

Causes of choking

There are various causes of choking that you have to be familiar with in order to prevent one from occurring.

  • Physical obstruction of the airway due to a foreign body – this type of choking oftentimes happen among young children by putting small objects into their mouths. In adults, it occurs while eating which is commonly caused by peanuts.
  • Respiratory diseases – can be caused by inhaling or swallowing a foreign object, allergic reactions, problems in the vocal cords, breathing large amounts of smoke from a fire, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema
  • Compression of the laryngopharynx, larynx or trachea during strangulation
  • Temporary closure of the vocal chords which mimics the sensation of choking

Signs and symptoms

coughing - choking - breathing emergency

If an individual is experiencing a choking episode, the following signs and symptoms are likely to occur.

  • A person who is choking has great difficulty in speaking or crying out
  • The breathing of a choking victim is difficult and produces a gasping or wheezing sound
  • The person has a forceful and instinctive cough, gurgling or retching noise
  • The person clutches his/her throat or mouth or induces vomiting by putting their fingers down the throat
  • If the breathing of the person is not restored, the face will turn blue (cyanosis) due to lack of oxygen and becomes unconscious

Management of choking

If the individual is conscious, the basic first aid is to encourage him/her to breathe and cough. If blockage cannot be removed by coughing, you have to perform the following measures:

  • Bend the individual forward and give him/her five back blows using the heel of your hands between their shoulder blades and checking the blockage after each blow.
  • Give the individual five thrusts to the chest by positioning one hand in the center of the back for reinforcement while the heel of your other hand is positioned the inferior region of the breastbone and checking the blockage after every thrust given.
  • For infants, place the baby on your lap or forearms with their head lower than the body. The amount of force used is less than that used on a child or adult.

If the person is unconscious

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