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Managing a Blockage of the Throat

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 1 Jul 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Choking Throat Mouth Blockage Abdominal

Choking is a very serious occurrence and can risk life so it is important that we know what to do in an emergency situation when someone has a blockage in their throat.

Management Of A Choking Adult

The essential thing to remember is to establish that the person is actually choking and not simply about to sneeze, faint or having a cardiac problem.

The first stage of managing a choking adult is to ask them if they can speak and encourage them to cough.If this does not resolve the problem, stand to the side of the person, encourage them to lean forward and give 5 short sharp blows top the back between the shoulder blades, checking to see if the blockage has been successfully removed between each blow.

If this technique has not been successful, give five abdominal thrusts. Cup one hand around the balled up fist of the other hand, pulling the two together quickly in an upward motion in the space between the bottom of the sternum and the navel. This encourages the air in the lungs to be forced out of the body quickly and relieve the blockage. Continue alternating the two techniques until the blockage is removed.

If this fails, and the person loses consciousness start basic life support (CPR) and get help.

Management Of A Choking Child

Very young children and babies should be managed in a slightly different way to adults as their body is more fragile and the techniques used for adults can be quite dangerous.

If a baby is choking, lay it down face down over your knee and rest the heel of your hand on their back and using the fingers only, give short sharp pats (not too hard) between the shoulder blades to try and encourage the remaining air in the lungs to push the object out of the mouth. If this fails lay the baby on its back and use two fingers to compress the breastbone by about a centimetre to help the object out.

Young children (over the age of 8) can be managed in a similar way as an adult. Stand the person up and encourage them to tilt forward and give a cough. If this fails perform the back blow technique followed by abdominal thrusts adjusting the strength of the blows to the size of the child.

For very overweight children an abdominal thrust performed when standing at the front of the child, using the heel of the hand just below the ribs may work better than the traditional abdominal thrust.

Preventing A Child From Choking

It may sound simple to simply remove all items that might pose a risk but this can be tricky especially if you have older children who have smaller toys.Whilst your child is very young keep all small toys in the older children’s bedroom and allow them to play with them away from the younger child.

Pen lids, rubbers and pencil sharpeners all pose a risk and sometimes these items get overlooked.Make sure the young child’s food is cut up into very small and easily manageable pieces. Small child like to cram a lot into their mouth so even two or three larger pieces can be very dangerous if they all go in at once. Try and limit the amount of food they are exposed to in one go and top up their plate as it empties.

What Not To Do

The first thing to remember when someone is choking is not to panic. This can be difficult but it is important as it will make the endangered person struggle more if they see you panicking.

Never try to push the blockage down the throat thinking this will alleviate the problem, as it could force the item further down sand make recovery even harder or push it into their lungs.

Unless you can easily see the blockage in the mouth, do not try and retrieve it as this increases the risk of pushing it further down.

Seeking Help

If someone has choked or had a blockage of any description in their throat, medical help should be sought. This even applies if the person genuinely feels fine again and the blockage has been removed. The tissues of the throat are very delicate and the trauma of having something lodged their may induce swelling. This swelling, like any other form of swelling will often not occur immediately after the event and can take a while to form. If swelling does occur this can obstruct the airway and be as risky as having a blockage in the first place.

Not all blockages will cause swelling, but just in case it is best to seek medical advice from your nearest Accident and Emergency department or drop in clinic and be assessed for damage.

Choking can happen very quickly and all members of the public should have a basic idea of how it should be managed., Ideally we should all know the approved techniques so it is recommended that you book onto a course that is run in your area that teaches basic principles of life saving.

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