Choking is an all-too-common emergency situation that can arise during a meal at home, while out at a restaurant, or even on the go. Choking episodes often occur in the elderly, but can happen to people of any age.
Choking causes nearly 5,000 deaths in the United States every year, but if you recognize the signs, you can help a choking person quickly.
Melisa Lai-Becker, MD, an emergency medicine doctor at Mass General Brigham, provides crucial advice on how to help someone who’s choking. Learn the emergency steps to follow in real time, including when to call 9-1-1.
Ask yourself if the person is:
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, a person may be choking. Tell them to cough. If they are unable to, or they aren’t able make any sound, it’s time to act quickly. Follow the steps below and be ready to call 9-1-1.
If an adult is choking and unable to clear a blockage on their own, try several quick blows to the back:
Give 5 chest thrusts to the breastbone (middle of the chest) instead of the abdomen when trying to clear the airway of a pregnant or obese person.
If you’re choking and alone, give yourself abdominal thrusts:
You also can bend over a hard surface, such as a chair or a countertop, and thrust it above your belly button in place of a fist.
If you’re choking, alone, and can’t talk or easily reach another person:
The steps you take to help a choking baby or child may differ depending on their age. Abdominal thrusts as described above are not recommended for use on infants 12 months or younger.
Infants and very young toddlers may not know how to signal that they’re choking. Observation is key to assessing a choking situation.
An infant is truly considered to be choking if:
To clear a blockage:
If the airway is still blocked, try chest thrusts:
Hopefully these actions clear the blockage in a choking baby. If they don’t, call 9-1-1.
You can help a choking baby or child in the same way as an adult.
Small children are at especially high risk for choking. To prevent your child from choking, follow these simple steps:
Choking can happen almost anywhere, at any time. Typically, it occurs in a place where emergency response personnel are not close by. If you stay calm and follow these basic steps, you may potentially save a life.