Choking occurs when a foreign body or small object lodges in the throat or windpipe, blocking the flow of air. A small piece of food is usually the choking hazard culprit.
Young children often swallow small objects other than food that lodge in the airway. Choking cuts off oxygen to the brain, so First Aid in the form of the ‘five and five’ treatment, or five blows with the heel of the hand to the back between the shoulder blades, and five abdominal thrusts, must be given as quickly as possible.
Video: First aid – Choking
In Australia, the Heimlich Manoeuvre is no longer practised, but it is still a reliable option if the person giving First Aid has not learned the five and five-technique.
The universal sign for choking is usually hands clutched around the throat. If the person is not able to give the signal, look for these indications they might be choking:
- Inability to talk
- Gagging sounds
- Waving arms wildly, gesturing at their throat
- Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
- Squeaky sounds when trying to breathe
- Coughing that can be weak or forceful
- Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky
- Skin that is flushed then turns pale or bluish rapidly
- Loss of consciousness
How To Recognise When Someone is Choking And The First Aid Measures To Remove The Blockage
If the person can cough forcefully, they should keep coughing as hard as they can. If the person is choking and can’t talk, cry, or laugh forcefully, the Australian Resuscitation Council recommends and practices the five-and-five approach to delivering First Aid treatment to choking victims.
Give five back blows. Stand to the side and just behind a choking adult. For a child, kneel behind. Place one arm across the person’s chest for support. Bend the person over at the waist to parallel the upper body with the ground. Deliver five firm separate back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
Give five abdominal thrusts. Performing five abdominal thrusts is also known as the Heimlich manoeuvre.
Alternate between the five back blows and five thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.
How Does Choking Happen
Choking happens when small objects, small items, or pieces of food become lodged and trapped in the throat, causing a blockage in the airway that prevents breathing. In young children, the cause of choking often is that they tried to swallow something not meant to be eaten, and it became lodged in the airway. In adults, swallowing food that is too large and has not been chewed enough causes the food to lodge and create a blockage.
What Is The First Aid Treatment For A Choking Person
Choking treatment in Australia is administered as the ‘five and five’ technique. Check out an online FACE training course if you do not know the ‘five and five’ technique and how to apply it to remove the blockage and clear the airway in a choking situation.
Why Australia Doesn’t Use The Heimlich Manoeuvre
The Heimlich Manoeuvre has never been used as a standard practice in Australia. Despite the claims of its inventor, Dr Heimlich, Australian resuscitation experts believe that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support its use, which they consider unproven and potentially dangerous. They instead recommend the use of the ‘five and five’ technique.
How To First Aid Choking Babies
To clear the airway of a choking infant younger than age one (1):
Assume a seated position and hold the infant face down on your forearm, resting on your thigh. Support the infant’s head and neck with your hand and place the head lower than the trunk.
Thump the infant gently but firmly five times on the middle of the upper back using the heel of your hand. The combination of gravity and the back blows should release the foreign body blocking the airway. Keep your fingers pointed up to avoid hitting the infant in the back of the head.
Turn the infant faceup on your forearm, resting on your thigh with the head lower than the trunk if the infant still isn’t breathing. Give five quick chest compressions using two fingers placed at the centre of the infant’s breastbone. Press down about 1 1/2 inches, and let the chest rise again between each compression.
Repeat the back blows and chest thrusts if breathing doesn’t resume. Call 000 for emergency medical help.
Begin infant CPR if one of these techniques removes the object that completely blocks the child’s airway, but the infant doesn’t resume breathing and begins turning pale or blue.
If the child is older than age one (1) and conscious, give abdominal thrusts only. Be careful not to use too much force to avoid damaging ribs or internal organs.
For More Information On Choking First Aid And CPR
If you found this article helpful, consider checking out the FACE blog page for more First Aid and Medically related topics of interest. While you are there, consider taking one of our FACE First Aid courses and gaining accredited and nationally recognized certification in First Aid and CPR.