Causes of Choking
Ever heard somebody cough while they were drinking or eating then later saying “that went down the wrong pipe?”
At the rear of your throat air and food both move through a similar pipe for a small distance until the pipe splits into two tubes. The one pipe is known as the esophagus which sends food down into the belly, and the windpipe which transmits air to the lungs. There is a tiny flap at the top of the windpipe known as the epiglottis and this shuts off the top of the windpipe when you digest liquids or food. Occasionally food slides past the fold and into the trachea (windpipe) – which can congest the windpipe. This is known as ‘choking’.
Coughing is an instinctive response by the body trying to drive the piece of food up out of the windpipe. Majority of the time people can cough the piece of food out, but occasionally the food gets trapped in the windpipe and the person can essentially die if not treated immediately.
Tips to Prevent Choking
- Chewing each piece of food till it is small and soft enough to digest.
- Don’t talk or walk around when you’re eating food. (Speaking with your mouth full of food looks uncivilized as well!)
- Do not put anything else into your mouth except liquids and food.
Helping Someone Else
If the individual is coughing, pause for a while and see if the casualty can dislodged the piece of food. If you see the person breathing normally, the person is fine – but get someone to double check that the individual is all right. If the individual is not incapable of breathing normally get assistance as soon as you can. If somebody is choking and they can’t cough out the food then they might require some medical assistance to get free whatever is obstructing the airway.
First Aid Steps
- Inspecting the person’s mouth and removing anything using your finger.
- Keeping composed and talking gently, telling them what you are busy doing.
- If the individual is small then have them seated and bend their face down with their head lowered down.
- Provide up to 5 hard thrusts between their shoulders with the palm of your hand.
- Examine the person’s mouth to see if you can get the obstruction out now or it might have already dislodged.
If a child has stopped breathing, you need to phone for an ambulance or begin CPR if you have been taught to do it. If you are not skilled in CPR, place the handset on loudspeaker and do what the dispatcher instructs you to do.