Safety & Emergency Preparedness Tip: Choking

If someone is choking, immediate action is required to help them clear their airway. Choking can be a life-threatening emergency, so acting quickly and effectively is important. Here’s what you should do if you encounter someone who is choking:

  1. Assess the Situation: Quickly assess the severity of the choking. If the person is coughing forcefully and making sounds, encourage them to continue coughing to try to dislodge the object. Immediate action is necessary if the person cannot cough, speak, or breathe.
  2. Call for Help: If the person cannot breathe or speak, immediately call for emergency medical assistance (911 or your local emergency number).
  3. Perform the Heimlich Maneuver (Abdominal Thrusts): Stand behind the choking person and wrap your arms around their waist. Make a fist with one hand and place it just above the person’s navel, thumb side in. Grab your fist with the other hand and perform quick inward and upward thrusts into the person’s abdomen. The goal is to create enough pressure to expel the obstructing object from the airway. Continue these thrusts until the object is dislodged or until professional help arrives.
  4. For Pregnant or Obese Individuals: the Heimlich Maneuver might not be as effective in these cases. Instead, give chest thrusts by placing your arms around the person’s chest, positioning your hands in the center, and pushing forcefully inward and upward.
  5. Encourage Coughing: If the person can cough but not speak, encourage them to keep coughing to try to clear the obstruction.
  6. Be Prepared for Unconsciousness: If the person becomes unconscious, gently lower them to the ground, and start CPR if you are trained. If you haven’t already called for emergency help, do so immediately.
  7. Perform CPR: If the person remains unresponsive and is not breathing, begin CPR following the appropriate guidelines until emergency medical help arrives.

It’s essential to act quickly when someone is choking, and knowing the Heimlich Maneuver can be a valuable life-saving skill. If you’re unsure how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR, consider taking a first aid and CPR course to learn these essential techniques. Always call for professional medical assistance if you encounter a choking emergency, even if you can successfully clear the obstruction.