The Emergency-Free Home - Choking or obstructed windpipe

Almost anyone can perform lifesaving measures quickly and easily and without special equipment. Choking usually occurs when a bite of food or an object becomes lodges at the back of the throat or at the opening of the trachea, or windpipe. Death can occur within four to five minutes, so quick action is crucial. The first step in helping a choking victim is to recognize the signs. Always call for help and the begin the rescue.

Signs of Choking

A choking victim cannot breathe, cough or speak. He may become pale and/or turn blue before collapsing. DO NOTHING if the person is coughing, breathing, or talking; he is getting air to his lungs and should be watched but have no rescue procedures performed on him. DO NOT slap the person on the back. The universal sign used to indicate choking is two hands placed on the throat, one hand on top of the other. Because people frequently grab or touch their throat when they are having difficulty swallowing or breathing, ask them if they are choking and need help.

Finger Probe

The finger probe should NEVER be performed on an infant or small child under the age of 8 years, except where indicated. If the object can be seen in an adult's mouth, a quick attempt to remove it can be made by probing with a finger. Use a hooking motion, NOT a jabbing, poking motion to dislodge the object and extract it from the person's mouth. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should this method be pursued if it appears that the object is being pushed farther downward rather than being released and brought up. If no object can be seen or a finger probe fails to dislodge the object, the Heimlich maneuver should be given without delay.

The Heimlich Maneuver

This lifesaving technique works simply by squeezing the volume of air trapped in the victim's lungs. The object or piece of food literally pops out of the throat as if it were ejected from a squeezed balloon.

  1. • for infants and small children (infant to 8 years) use the INFANT HEIMLICH MANEUVER
  2. • for children and adults (8 years and older) use the ADULT HEIMLICH MANEUVER

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