Choking, It’s not just the food!

When it comes to choking we usually think of food as the primary cause. Choking on food is a risk as food is something we usually eat on a daily basis, however understanding other causes that would make someone more prone to choking is also important.

What is Choking?

Choking is defined as either a partial obstruction (mild) or complete obstruction (severe) of the airway.

The two key factors are:

  1. Recognition
  2. First Aid

Who is at risk and why?

Generally, the risk of choking is increased in the following:

  • Babies and children
  • The elderly
  • Those with certain medical or health conditions

Babies and children tend to want to put everything in their mouth. Items including:

  • Coins
  • Small batteries
  • Small balls
  • Grapes (especially whole ones!)
  • Hot dogs
  • Bottle tops
  • Other small objects

Generally anything that is small enough to choke on is a risk.

The elderly could choke on food, medications or hard boiled sweets. It would always be wise to watch and be more aware of Babies, Children and the elderly when they are eating.

Medical or health conditions that can affect the way someone swallows, chews or their ability to maintain a good upright posture will all be an additional risk factor for choking.

Those with certain medical or health conditions including Parkinson’s Disease, History of Strokes, Dementia or anything else that may affect their swallowing, chewing or ability to control how much food they are eating at once also need to be considered when looking at risk. This would be particularly useful for care setting staff and those who work or live with anyone listed above.

Choking Treatment

Early recognition of choking is important to reduce the time someone’s airway is obstructed for

ADULT & CHILD (over 1 year)

Encourage them to cough and clear the obstruction themselves, ask them “are you choking? And see if they can speak back to you.

IF THE OBSTRUCTION IS MILD THIS SHOULD CLEAR, IF NOT proceed with the following:

1. BACK BLOWS:

  • SHOUT FOR HELP, stand to the side and slightly behind the casualty, support their shoulder furthest away from you with your hand, lean them forward so the head is lower than their chest
  • Using the HEEL of your hand GIVE UP TO 5 SHARP BACK BLOWS between their shoulder blades. This needs to be hard enough to try and remove the obstruction
  • If this is still not cleared after 5 Back blows proceed with:

2. ABDOMINAL THRUSTS:

  • Stand behind the person with your arms around them,
  • Make a fist with 1 hand and place this above the belly button below the ribs (in the soft part)
  • Place your other hand over your fist and PULL INWARDS AND UPWARDS SHARPLY UP TO 5 TIMES

KEEP REPEATING THIS CYCLE until the obstruction has been removed. Get someone to call 999 or 112 if possible unless you are on your own.

If you are on your own do this cycle of UP TO 5 BACK BLOWS and UP TO 5 ABDOMINAL THRUSTS FOR 3 CYCLES before calling 999 or 112 for emergency help.

BABY (under 1 year)

The baby may attempt to cough and clear the obstruction themselves, crying and breathing should then be normal.

IF THE OBSTRUCTION IS MILD THIS SHOULD CLEAR, IF NOT proceed with the following:

1. BACK BLOWS:

Back Blow for a choking baby

  • SHOUT FOR HELP, sit or kneel down and place the baby front down on your arm with their head supported with your hand, lean them forward so the head is lower than their chest. Use your leg to support your arm.
  • Using the HEEL of your hand GIVE UP TO 5 SHARP BACK BLOWS between their shoulder blades. This needs to be hard enough to try and remove the obstruction
  • If this is still not cleared after 5 Back blows proceed with:

2. CHEST THRUSTS:

Chest thrust Baby

  • Turn the baby over onto their back again with their head below their body,
  • Using 2 fingers GIVE UP TO 5 CHEST THRUSTS in the same place as chest compressions but sharper and slower.

KEEP REPEATING THIS CYCLE until the obstruction has been removed. Get someone to call 999 or 112 if possible unless you are on your own.

If you are on your own do this cycle of UP TO 5 BACK BLOWS and UP TO 5 CHEST THRUSTS FOR 3 CYCLES before calling 999 or 112 for emergency help.

If at any point during this the Baby, child or Adult become unconscious you MUST START CPR

Anyone who has had chest thrusts or abdominal thrusts should go to hospital to be checked over. It is always advisable to be seen by a doctor following any choking incident.

All of our first aid courses cover choking in Adults, Children and Babies.

The charity Millie’s Trust was set up following a tragic choking incident at a nursery. We are proud to support Millie’s trust and be an approved trainer for them in the East Midlands www.milliestrust.com

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