Choking: – Do you know what to do?
I guess the first question is how long does it take for someone who is choking to become unconscious? It’s a tough question as it really depends on the item/object that is blocking the airway and how much of an obstructions is being caused. As a really rough guide 30 – 60 seconds, but please understand that it could happen more quickly.
The second question must be, what are the signs and symptoms.
- Difficult speaking and breathing
- Coughing and gagging
- Clutching at the throat, pointing to the mouth
- Becoming increasing distressed and agitated
- Ultimately lapsing into unconsciousness
If the casualty has lapsed into unconsciousness then we must call the emergency services and start CPR immediately. We suggest the call be made after one cycle of back blows and abdominal thrusts if not before.
So what do we do?
- Lean them forward and encourage them to cough and keep looking to see the object is removed
- While bent forward give up to 5 back blows with the heal of the hand between the shoulder blades in a forward an upward motion. Don’t be afraid to hit quite sharply. Keep checking after each blow to see if the object has been removed
- If the back blows have not worked move on to deliver 5 abdominal thrusts by standing behind the casualty and wrapping your arms around the upper part of the abdomen below the ribcage
- Clench your fist with your knuckles facing upwards and wrap your other hand around your fist
- Pull inwards and upwards sharply 5 times (imagine that you are trying to get up and under the ribcage) once again keep checking after each blow to see if the object has been removed
- Remember the the idea is to remove the object not just to follow a procedure so if after any attempted back blow or abdominal thrust achieve you goal then it is time to stop
- If you administer abdominal thrusts it is recommended that the casualty be checked at a hospital for potential internal injuries
- If all attempts have failed and the casualty lapses into unconsciousness then to only life saving method left is to perform CPR