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 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.
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 techniques.
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
- Cough, which may either 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
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.
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 separate back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
Give five abdominal thrusts:
Perform five abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich manoeuvre).
Alternate between five blows and five thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.
How Choking Happens
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 got stuck.
In adults, swallowing food that is too large and has not been chewed enough causes the food to lodge and create the blockage.
Treatment For Choking
Choking treatment in Australia is administered as the ‘five and five’ technique. Check out an online FACE First Aid training course if you do not know what the ‘five and five’ technique is and how to apply it to remove the blockage and clear the airway in a choking situation.
See above When choking what to do for instructions.
Why Australia Doesn’t Use 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 Stop 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 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 face up 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 person’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.
There is one piece of First Aid Equipment that every home should own as part of a First Aid kit.
That life-saving device removes any item blocking the airway in any person of any age. The video link below will take you to a short video on one of the anti-choking devices and how to use the device.
The anti-choking device can be purchased from multiple manufacturers at a range of prices from several suppliers.
First Aid Courses
Taking an accredited First Aid course will equip you with the skills you need to save a life and recognise potential emergency situations. Take our FACE Blog page First Aid Quiz. See what level of First Aid knowledge you currently have and the areas you need to improve as you peruse our Blog page topics and expand your First Aid knowledge.