Simple first aid tips to prevent choking

Choking occurs when an obstruction in the throat blocks the airflow.

It occurs when an object, liquid, or food substance gets stuck in the throat or windpipe (the air passage from the throat to the lungs). 

Choking is an emergency case that needs urgent attention.

Symptoms of choking

The following symptoms are observed: 

  • Difficulty breathing and talking
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Gasping for air

To prevent choking, always sit while eating, avoid taking in large pieces of food at a time, chew your food properly, drink adequate water, keep toys and other objects away from small children. 

What to do when an adult is choking

Request that someone calls the emergency number in your locality. While he or she is doing that, carry out the following first aid

  1. Back slaps with the person tilted forward, and if this doesn’t work, you proceed to do abdominal thrusts.

To perform back slaps:

  • Stand firmly behind the choking adult.
  • Place one arm across the person's chest for support.
  • Bend the person over at the waist so that the upper body is parallel with the ground.
  • Give five back blows between the person's shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

The procedure to perform abdominal thrust includes:

  • Stand firmly behind the person, placing one foot slightly in front. Wrap your arms around the waist of the person and tilt him or her forward. If a child is choking, kneel behind the child.
  • Make a fist with one hand, position it above the person’s navel.
  • Grasp the fist with the other hand, press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust — as if trying to lift the person.

Alternate between 5 blows and 5 thrusts until the blockage is dislodged. As a first responder, you’re expected to perform abdominal thrust and back blows before calling the emergency team.


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