choking woman grasping at her throat 

Most people have at some point experienced that mild choking feeling when a piece of food gets struck in your throat. It can be distressing and quite scary, but thankfully in most cases the blockage is easily cleared.

However sometimes a blockage can be severe and assistance from someone nearby can be the difference between life and death.  Would you know how to respond if a friend of family member experienced choking?

Here's some handy tips on dealing with a choking incident.

Mild Airway Obstruction

Air flow may still pass in and out and the casualty may be able to talk.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing or gasping
  • Clutching at throat
  • Red face and watering eyes
  • Anxiety and agitation

What to do for a Mild Airway Obstruction

  • Assess severity
  • If an effective cough is present, encourage coughing
  • Rest & reassure
  • Seek medical assistance
  • Do not let the person sleep

Severe Airway Obstruction 

In this case there is no airflow in or out and the victim is unable to talk

Signs and Symptoms

  • Silent
  • Clutching at throat
  • Frantic or quiet
  • No air is getting into the body
  • May collapse

What to do for a Severe Airway Obstruction

If conscious:

  • Call 000
  • Administer 5 back blows with the heel of your hand between their shoulder blades. Check if the object is cleared between each blow
  • If unsuccessful administer 5 chest thrusts. Sit or stand casualty against a hard surface - infants (12 months and under) can be held in a football hold. Place the heel of your hand - or two fingers for an infant - in the CPR compression position and press the chest wall in to clear the object
  • Alternate if unsuccessful

If unconscious:

  • Call 000
  • Commence CPR
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