What to Do When Someone Around You is Choking

Choking occurs when something suddenly blocks a person’s airway (either partly or fully) and they are unable to breathe.

Because choking cuts off oxygen to the brain, it is imperative that first aid is administered as quickly as possible.

First Aid and Choking

So, what exactly do you do if someone around you is choking, you might ask? Here are five important tips to help you understand what you can do to help someone who is.

  1. Recognize the Signs of Choking
  2. Mild or Severe Choking
  3. The Heimlich Maneuver
  4. Call 911

1) Recognize the Signs of Choking

The most important thing in helping someone who is choking is to know and recognize when it is happening. There are several signs of choking, here are the most common:

  • Universal Sign of Distress: The person is clutching their throat.
  • Gagging: If the person is gagging or drooling and unable to speak.
  • Coughing and Wheezing: A person might uncontrollably cough or wheeze due to a blocked or partially blocked airway.
  • Panicked and Distressed Behavior: If a person is acting panicked or distressed and is unable to speak, they might be choking.
  • Loss of Consciousness: If a person loses consciousness, it could be a sign of choking.

2) Mild or Severe Choking

No all choking is created equal. In fact, there is mild and severe choking and they are both tended to differently.

  • Mild Choking: If someone is able to partially speak, cry or breath, you might be dealing with a case of mild choking. If this is the case, encourage them to cough until the object they are choking on clears. 
  • Severe Choking: If choking is severe, a person will not be able to cry, talk, or cough. Without assistance, they will eventually lose consciousness.

3) The Heimlich Maneuver

If the person choking is unable to cough the object out or if the choking is severe, the Heimlich maneuver is performed by standing behind the victim and wrapping your arms around their waist. Let the person lean slightly forward as you place the fist of one hand slightly above their belly button. Grasp your fist with the other hand and press hard with a quick, upward thrust. Perform this six to ten times, or until the blockage is dislodged.

4) Call 911

If you are the only person around to assist the choker, yell out and get someone to call 911. If there is no one else around, make sure you perform the five and five or the Heimlich maneuver prior to calling. If the person becomes unconscious, CPR will need to be administered.

Choking in Infants Younger than Age One

If a child is younger than one, give 5 back slaps and5 chest thrusts. Continue performing the five and five until the infant is no longer choking or becomes unresponsive. If the infant becomes unresponsive then begin CPR immediatly and call 911. There are specialized first aid and CPR training for infants and young children, so if you are around little ones pretty often, you need to consider getting certified in Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

Choking and First Aid Training

It is best to be prepared and properly trained just in case someone around you begins choking. Consider taking a first aid course or CPR training to learn even more ways to help someone around you who is choking or has lost consciousness.

Contact us to learn more information about what to do when someone around you is choking, or to sign up for a first aid training course.