Learning Choking First Aid Can Help Rescue More Lives

Choking is a condition that affects breathing by blocking air from entering the lungs as usual. It happens when an individual inhales a foreign object which blocks the airway either partially or fully.

When the airway blocks partially, the body experiences inadequate flow of air into the lungs. A fully blocked airway can be fatal if choking first aid is not administered immediately.

In this article, we will discuss all the facts about choking—known and unknown to many. We will address all FAQs about choking.

Choking is common during eating or drinking— and when it does, it prevents an individual from breathing normally and effectively.  This condition normally affects the respiratory system in the human body. It can cause medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest in young children.

When a person chokes, it induces some kind of coughing (due to insufficient air). This coughing can cause inhaled objects to expel from the airway without clinical assistance.

In kids, choking can be fatal. This is because they have an immature airway which can easily block—and they are at a higher risk because they tend to put pretty much anything in their mouths.  

Before we address the facts on choking, we will first seek to know what causes this condition, treatment and prevention. With that information, we will be in a better position to understand all the facts about the blocking of the airway and choking first aid.

Causes of Choking, and Its Symptoms

Choking is one of the most common and major reason for death among children below the age of five years. As we may understand, a young child starts exploring the world by putting things in their mouth. The child will try anything that fits in their mouth.

If these objects slips back and they try swallowing it, it can cause blockage in the airway—particularly in the trachea, as well as the throat. This will cause inability to breath in children to and lead to choking.

If the situation is not addressed immediately— and the object expelled from a child’s airway, they may be deprived of air and the result could be death.

Also, it can be caused by food. Children below the age of three don’t know how to chew food well and when swallowing food, it can contain large particles and can cause blockage.

According to a study that was done, it showed that out of the recorded choking fatality cases that was recorded, 60% were food related. 31 percent were tied to non-food substances and 9% were not determined.

Among the choking incidents recorded, coins were a major cause of choking.

In cases that usually happen to the adults, food particles not-chewed-properly is the main cause. Also individuals that take excessive alcohol have a risk for choking too. Old age can also be a risk factor for choking.

There are various symptoms to notice when a person is choking and act swiftly to rescue them. Rescuing involves issuing first aid help in order to prevent loss of life or other health complications.

  • Person is not able to talk,
  • Coughing, gagging or even crying
  • Gasping of the throat
  • Breathing difficulties followed by very weak cough that can make one make a high pith noise
  • The lips and skin may start turning blue from lack of oxygen.
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Convulsions
  • The person may fall unconscious as the last stage.

Choking: How to treat it

When choking incidents occurs to a child or an adult, emergency first aid help can be offered by bystanders or passersby. This type of help is normally called Heimlich maneuver which is administered by any person that is near the incident.

However, this procedure in children is better done by a medical practitioner. This is because their airway needs to be checked for any damage since they have developing organs that are prone to injuries.

In most cases, this method known as Heimlich maneuver helps to treat a child who have foreign objects in their airway causing difficulty in breathing. This procedure must be issued as soon as possible because if the child is not attended to, the results could be as detrimental as permanent brain damage.

The Heimlich maneuver cannot be used on children below one year. There are different forms of treatments that are applied to such cases to extract the foreign objects.

Apart from brain damage, failure to respond immediately to a choking case can serious medical conditions such as respiratory problems or even cardiac arrest. In such scenarios, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be used after choking first aid to restore breathing and thus air circulation in the human body.

Another life-saving procedure for choking is known as intubation. This medical procedure is done by qualified medical practitioners. During the process, a scope is used to inspect the airway to see whatever is causing obstruction.  It is often done through the throat.

This procedure is followed by removal of the foreign object through an instrument that is used in the medical field for such activities known as Magill forceps.

There are other very serious cases of choking that cannot be treated by first aid or even by use of Heimlich maneuver and Magill forceps. For instance, one involves medical practitioners making a hole in the patient’s neck and then inserting a tube to help in breathing before other measures are taken to unblock the airway. This process is known as cricothyrotomy.

Ways to Prevent Choking

Prevention is always better than cure! So before thinking about choking first aid, always work to prevent it.

In little children, ensure that they do not have small objects that can be lodged in the mouth and can block their airway. They should not be fed on hard food that can make them struggle to swallow. Toys that are small must be removed due to temptation of them be put in the mouth.

Parents should also instruct them to chew food thoroughly before they swallow. They should also be strict by not allowing them to play when they have food or gum in their mouth.

In adults, they should also understand that they should chew their food thoroughly as well as they should take small bites. They should also know that taking a lot of alcohol may have effects in chewing and swallowing of food. Reducing alcohol intake will reduce risks of choking.

Having now understood what choking is, its causes and treatment plus its prevention to both children and adults, it will help us understand the facts that are associated by choking.

Choking: 12 Facts You Should Know About It!

You may have heard a few things about choking and choking first aid, but separating facts from hearsay can be difficult in a world where the internet and social media has handed everyone a microphone.

Though not considered a major threat to life by many people, a look into the facts can help change your opinion and cautiousness towards it.

  1. Excessive alcohol intake can cause choking and death!

Scary right! But it’s very possible! When drinking goes on without moderation, nausea follows, and then vomiting. In most cases, it is not wise to assume that someone who has fallen asleep or unconscious while drunk is fine.

One of the most dangerous effects of alcohol abuse is vomiting and one can easily choke on their own vomit. When one drinks beyond their limit, they consume too much of the chemicals used as ingredients—which can very dangerous.

These chemicals interfere with the signals in the brain—which are useful in controlling automatic responses. One of these responses that is affected is the gag reflex. 

A gag reflex is a process where a contraction occurs at the back of the throat—normally activated when any object touches the mouth of your mouth roof. It can also be triggered when an object touches the throat or even the area that surround the tonsils.

This reflex prevents choking. When a drunk person’s drinking nears pass out, they are at high risk of choking on their own puke. When this kind of choking occurs, a person can lose their life simply because they were unconscious and their body couldn’t control the gag reflex.

 Even when that person survives choking first aid, the scenario, prolonged choking can cause permanent brain damage.

  • Most choking is caused by food.

Past studies show that about 60 percent of all choking conditions are triggered by food. This can vary based on the food types one is eating or table manners (or eating habits). Normally when one is eating, one should ensure the food chews properly enough to squeeze into the airway.

For instance, there types of food that cannot be given to young children or old people. This is because they will have a hard time swallowing. It helps to learn that there some foods that are hard to chew and can easily block the airway and trigger choking.

One of the most prevention methods that can be done to such scenarios is for adults to adhere to table manners by chewing food without talking. In cases of children and old people, supervision should be made to ensure that they are chewing their food well until they are comfortable to swallow.

  • Non-food objects cause a high number choking related loss of life.

In 1995, a study that was conducted to do analysis on the objects that cause choking and mortality among kids. The study identified round objects as the most common cause of fatal choking.

They gave an example that a marble or even a small ball can cause the child airway to be completely sealed and can easily cause loss of life. Other examples such as coins, balloons, candies and even chewing gum are the most form that can cause choking among young children.

The study concluded that there substantial fatalities that are brought by such objects to infants.  All the prevention measures must be implemented by parents or guardians to ensure that such objects are not near children.

Also when buying toys, guardians should consider their children’s safety—things that can fit in their mouth comfortably should be avoided.

  • Choking cases among the elderly are on the rise.

Several studies reveal an increase in the number of elderly people who lose their life due to choking and other related medical conditions.

Various factors contribute to choking among people of age. Such factors include swallowing problems, fast eating, trying to swallow large amount of food at once.

Other causes can be caused by illnesses such as strokes or when they are suffering from Parkinson disease. There others that lack enough saliva that makes it easier to swallow foods or even eating dry foods such as biscuits.

Additionally, these individuals face challenges of chewing due to the loss of teeth.

The above factors can increase the chances of choking among the old people. No wonder the care-givers of old people must be conversant with choking first aid techniques to rescue them from such life-threatening incidents.

  • Choking is common among people with dysphagia.

This is a condition that affects people and causes difficulty in swallowing food or liquids. This means that this food or liquid being swallowed takes a lot of time from the mouth to the stomach and it’s often painful. Generally, it can makes swallowing food items very difficult—almost impossible.

Other cases of difficulty in swallowing can happen when someone is eating too fast or he or she does not chew the food well thus discomfort while swallowing. If these discomforts keep on persisting, it may indicate some serious medical concerns that require treatment.

This condition can occur at any age or time when growing but they are usually common among older people. The treatments for this condition vary, therefore the doctor’s recommendation will depend on the cause of the condition.

In people with dysphagia, food or liquid can easily get stuck in the throat and cause choking. Emergency action is required to unblock the airway using Heimlich maneuver—failure to do that may lead to death.

  • Deaths among children are very high due to the injuries that are caused by choking.

Choking among children is the most common and leading cause of death due to the injuries that are caused by blockage of their airway. Research has concluded that all children below four years are at a higher risk of being victims of choking. Majority of these incidences among the children are caused by food, toys or even coins.

The research showed that in the United State of America, one child dies due to choking complications every five days. It highlighted how the government failed to control the food manufacturing industries as well as toy manufactures in minimizing choking dangers.

Even though some of the food industries were placing labels of warning to people on their products that were of high risk, a lot of work must be done to bolster the safety standards.

Consequently, parents should be encouraged to be aware of the type of food that causes choking among the children. They should understand that the dangers of choking relies on the shape, and the size. The research found some foods considered child-friendly to be risky.

In the end, the researchers urged guardians and parents to be on high alert on the food they are giving their children in order to curb the death cases brought by choking.

  • When a person is choking, they do not make or produce any sound.

It should be noted that when a person is choked and there is no air passing through their air way, it is impossible for them to make any sound to signal distress. When the air is not passing at all, or one has blocked airway, no air reaches the vocal folds.

With that in mind, it is very important that we should be always keen and observe others while eating particularly children. You can notice a choking fellow even before they makes any sound.

It should be noted that, since children are more affected by choking, parents and other caregivers should always be present in order to supervise them when taking meals. This will lead to a reduction in choking fatalities.

  • Choking first aid training can help saving a choking person.

When a person has choking first aid training for emergency, chances are very high that they can save a person in the event they start choking. Anyone can train and help save a life during—forget the notion that only medics can rescue a choking fellow.

Caregivers, in particular should train so that they can assist offer assistance when needed. The training entails choking first aid and Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification which equips people with virtually all the skills on how to act when there is a case of emergency such as choking.

CPR can help an individual prolong life for the affected person in case they fall unconscious due to choking.

9.     More people lose life from the effects of choking than other causes.

Statistics that have been done in the United States shows that shooting, drowning, or even fire related deaths are less common than cases triggered by choking. This is a wakeup call to all the authorities who view choking like it isn’t a serious cause of death.

To reduce the numbers of fatalities from choking, parents and care giver personnel should be trained on the most common causes of choking and how to administer choking first aid.

10.Some types of food should be avoided unless taken in a well mechanized way.

These types of food are highly risky and can cause choking among children and adults alike. They should be prepared well to avoid unnecessary dangers that can cause loss of life. Such foods include nuts, apple, popcorn, grapes, hard candies, seeds among others.

11.  <h3> Dangerous games can lead to a blocked airway. <h3>

There some dangerous games you and your kids should never play due to their effects. For instance, eating competition has made many adults choke and can lead to very serious brain injury or in worst cases, loss of life if not responded to as soon as possible.

Another form of dangerous game is tossing food up in the air and catching it using the mouth. While doing so, something like grape can be caught using the mouth but it may also go straight to the airway and eventually lead to choking.

The most dangerous of these games is one which is known as caterpillar. It is where one places a grass head on the tongue and start repeating the name caterpillar. Whoever repeats that process many times without choking that person is the winner.  

All the above games have led to serious cases of choking and death in cases where choking first aid was not issued immediately.

12. Eating food in a moving vehicle.

Choking is very imminent when one is enjoying a meal in a moving car— because they are not steady when, chances are high one may choke. Why? You never know when the road will get messy and the driver will hit the emergency break.

In a nutshell, live a healthy life; the eating conditions in a moving car are not friendly to you air way. Avoid it!

To wrap up

We have seen that choking is one of the major causes of death to young children. People of age are also at a high risk of dying due to choking. This condition can be prevented by taking care of ourselves as well as other people that surround us— more so kids.

Policies should be developed by the governments to control the manufacturing of hazardous toys. These toys play their own part in causing the death of young children.

Likewise, young mothers and caregivers should also be taught on how to prevent their children as well as the elderly people they look after from choking.

Adults must also remember that alcohol should be taken with moderation in order to prevent choking as a result of careless drinking.

Lastly, a blocked airway can be fatal, everybody should consider a simple choking first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.