How should you react to a choking?

When the brain does not receive oxygen for more than four minutes, permanent brain damage can occur and, in the worst case, death. Knowing how to act in the presence of someone who is drowning either due to the obstruction of some food or other element is crucial.

First of all, you should know that if the person who is choking has some breathing difficulties but can still speak or has a severe cough, it is best to do nothing, not even hit the back as is usually done. The cough itself already functions as an expulsion mechanism for the obstructing element. However, when there is a major choking, in which the person has obvious breathing difficulties, it is best to act quickly and perform first aid techniques.

Types of First Aid for Choking

There are a number of first aid techniques that you should carry out when choking. We describe them below:

Heimlich maneuver

This maneuver is one of the best known and one of the main reactions when someone is choking. This technique can be used while the person is lying down, sitting, or standing.

If the victim is conscious and sitting or standing, stand behind her and wrap your arms around her waist. Place the side of the fist corresponding to the thumb in the center of the abdomen, just below the lower end of the breastbone and grasp it with your other hand. Push inward with quick, upward compressions and repeat until the object is coughed out or the person begins to breathe or cough.

Jaw traction and tongue lift

This is another of the first aid techniques in case of choking. Sometimes a lack of oxygen can make you lose consciousness. If this is the case and the victim is unconscious, lay her on the floor on her back and try the jaw traction and tongue lift technique. To do this, open the mouth with your thumb pressing the tongue: this way we will prevent the tongue from moving away from the back of the throat and we can clear the airways. If we can see the object causing the choking, we should try to remove it whenever possible. Above all, be careful, as you could push the object even lower and cause another obstruction.

If still not breathing, gently tilt the victim’s head back and lift the chin. Then you will have to proceed to assisted breathing, or as it is colloquially known, to mouth of mouth. Place your mouth over the victim’s, close his nose with your fingers, and take two slow puffs of air lasting one and a half to two seconds each to fill the lungs. Next, place the base of the palm of one of your hands on the midline between the navel and the victim’s rib cage, and then place the other hand over the first. Next, press firmly but gently on the abdomen and perform six to ten quick inward and upward thrusts.

Repeat the steps until the victim is breathing again or emergency help arrives.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is another first aid procedure that should only be used when the victim has no pulse, indicating that their heart has stopped beating. CPR involves compression of the chest by pressing with the base of the palm of the hand on the lower half of the breastbone. These compressions should be delivered over a period of approximately four seconds in groups of five, followed by a gentle mouth-to-mouth puff of air. This technique can help the victim continue to breathe and circulate blood until emergency help arrives.

This technique, however, must be performed by someone who has received specific training. That is why it is so important to be trained to know how to act in an emergency and guarantee a cardioprotected environment. It is important to remember that while these techniques can save lives, they are NOT a substitute for a certified first aid course or proper training that will teach you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR.

At Neosalus we have the LifeVac, an emergency kit designed to act quickly in the event of choking that, through suction, releases an obstruction in the victim’s airway when the choking protocol has been followed without success. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us, and remember: your first aid knowledge is key to choking!

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