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04 January 2008

How To Help Someone Who Is Choking

It is a serious matter when someone chokes and there is no one at hand in the near vicinity appropriately trained to help them. A person's life can depend on whether you know what to do. Everyone should be knowledgeable or familiar with the Heimlich method, however many obstructions can be dislodged before this procedure is used. Even children have the capacity to respond with help, when it becomes apparent that someone is in distress.

Symptoms of choking include:

1. A person cannot speak or cry out.
2. Turning blue (cyanosis) from lack of oxygen.
3. Desperately grabs at his or her throat.
4. Exhibiting a weak cough, and labored breathing producing a high pitched noise
5. The person has any or all of the above, and then becomes unconscious.

Universal sign of choking: If you ever find yourself in this situation, alert those around you by making the universal sign of choking (left). If you witness someone showing this sign or one similar in which you suspect choking, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.

After calling 911, attempt to dislodge the object by using the Heimlich maneuver (below). If you have not been trained to use this maneuver, most restaurants have a poster that details the procedure. The best solution is to be trained in CPR. A CPR course also includes foreign body airway obstruction (choking) training.

Helping someone who is choking:

It is always important to remain alert and avoid panicking. Someone's life may depend on your assessment, judgment and action.

1. Encourage the person to cough first, slapping the upper back with the heel of your hand with measured hard blows (5 to 20 times) - children with more care. The back slap essentially will create a pressure that will often help to expel the blockage.

2. Abdominal thrusts, used in the Heimlich procedure, can cause damage (cracked ribs, bruising) if not properly applied to the right area. The person performing the procedure, should stand behind the one who is choking and using their hands to exert pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm, compressing the lungs, exerting an upward pressure on the object lodged in the trachea, forcing it out. For pregnant women or obese people chest thrusts can be used in a modified form by placing the back of the hand on the chest rather than the abdomen.

3. If alone, abdominal thrusts can also be done using the back of a chair in the same manner, applying pressure to the diaphragm.

4. If a patient is unconscious, CPR should be done with chest compression and artificial respiration. Once conscious, the obstruction should be at the mouth and can be removed by turning the patient, allowing gravity to do the rest. Finger sweeping can induce vomiting which can also be a problem.

These procedures are appropriate for adults. Young children and infants are different. Training for this should be learned from a medical person in programs designed to address this.

This article was written by Jon Percepto from Eclectic Commons. Images via 1, 2, 3. If you are interested in contributing to the thinking process and be a writer on The Thinking Blog click here.

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