Choking can happen very suddenly and it can be a very frightening thing to witness. However, because it can happen so fast, you need to be equally in quick in using whatever first aid training you have to clear the obstructing object and stop the person choking. Speed and first aid skills are especially important when it is a child that is choking.
What happens when someone is choking?
Mild blockage of the airways can be cleared by the person themselves, through coughing or having a drink of water. However, when a more severe blockage occurs, such as a large piece of food or in the case of a child, part of a toy or another small object, the person may be unable to speak, breathe or cough. Without urgent assistance, they could lose consciousness.
What to do as a first aider
If you spot an adult choking, here is what you need to do:
- Remove any obvious obstruction to the mouth
- Encourage the person to carry on coughing
- Deliver up to five blows to the back
- Deliver up to five abdominal thrusts (what you may know as the Heimlich Manoeuvre)
- If choking continues, call an ambulance and continue trying to clear the obstruction until help arrives
When it comes to treating children for choking, the procedures to follow are a little different. It is necessary to undergo specialist training on a paediatric first aid training course to learn how to safely and efficiently treat choking in children.