Dealing with choking

What's on your Mind? - March 2019
How can you tell someone is choking

This month’s musings are all about choking. It is THE hot topic at nearly every course I run and something everyone is aware they may have to deal with at some point in their life.

How can you tell someone is choking?

If someone comes up to you clutching their throat, pointing at their mouth, can’t talk or breath, looks very red in the face or very pale/blueish, they are likely to be choking.

When it comes to young children we usually see when they start choking as we are with them when they are eating or playing, however with adults or older children its important to understand these signs.

If someone is coughing, this is a good thing! They may still need your help, but to cough you need to be able to breath a little bit so they are not fully choking at this point.

What do I do if someone if choking?

This is the question on everyone’s mind and it’s so easy to get these simple skills in your head so it is almost an automatic reaction should someone begin choking:

Children over 1 years old or an adult:

1) Ask them to cough. Try to keep them calm (this will keep you calmer too) and talk slowly and clearly.

2) If they can’t cough give them up to five (5) backslaps. Lean the casualty forward and put your arm across their front so when you hit them they don’t fall forward (see picture above). Then, between their shoulder blades, give up to five short, sharp hits with the heel of your hand. Between each back-slap check to see if the obstruction has come out.

3) If the back-slaps don’t work give up to five (5) abdominal thrusts. Put your hands around the casualty and with one hand in a ball and the other over the top of it put your hands half way between their belly button and rib cage. Then, in a short, sharp motion, pull in and up (in an L shape). Do this up to five times checking each time if the obstruction has removed. (see picture above).

4) If the obstruction still hasn’t moved call 999.

5) Continue the up to five back-slaps and up to five abdominal thrusts until the ambulance arrives or the casualty loses consciousness.

6) Start CPR. Perform 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths on repeat until the ambulance comes. If the choking obstruction comes lose and they start breathing put the casualty in the recovery position.

Note: If you have to do any abdominal thrusts you must send the casualty to hospital straight away in case of any internal damage.

Infant under 1 years old:

1) Ask them to cough. This is harder with a little one but give it a go – it is a natural reaction so if they can they will.

2) If they can’t cough give them up to five (5) back-slaps. Lean the casualty over your lap with their head facing down (see picture above). Then, between their shoulder blades, give up to five short, sharp hits with the heel of your hand. Between each back-slap check to see if the obstruction has come out.

3) If the back-slaps don’t work give up to five (5) chest thrusts. Turn the casualty over on your lap and with two fingers pump up to five short, sharp pumps of their chest. Do this up to five times checking each time if the obstruction has removed.

4) If the obstruction still hasn’t moved call 999.

5) Continue the up to five back-slaps and up to five chest thrusts until the ambulance arrives or the casualty loses consciousness.

6) Start CPR. Perform 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths on repeat until the ambulance comes. If the choking obstruction comes lose and they start breathing put the casualty in the recovery position in your lap. Choking is a scary business so if you are able to dislodge it you are likely to have a crying and/or panicked casualty. Be calming and reassuring and get medical help if you need further support.

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