Lesson 6: First Aid for Choking

Welcome to Lesson 6 of our Online Emergency First Aid at Work Course, focusing on “First Aid for Choking.” Choking is a serious and time-sensitive emergency that can happen to anyone, at any age, and requires prompt and effective response to prevent severe consequences, including asphyxiation and death.

Choking occurs when a foreign object, often food or a small item, blocks the airway, making it difficult or impossible for the person to breathe. Quick recognition and correct first aid response are crucial in these situations.

In this lesson, you will learn:

  • Recognizing Choking: How to quickly identify signs of choking. You’ll learn to distinguish between mild and severe choking based on the casualty’s ability to speak, breathe, or cough.
  • First Aid Techniques for Choking: Step-by-step instructions on administering back blows and abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver), two critical techniques used to dislodge an obstruction from a choking person’s airway.
  • Adapting Techniques for Different Age Groups: The course will cover variations in techniques when assisting infants, children, and the elderly, as each group requires a slightly different approach.
  • Post-Choking Care and Considerations: Guidance on care after the obstruction is cleared, including monitoring for complications and understanding when to seek further medical evaluation.

By the end of this lesson, you will possess the essential skills to act decisively in a choking emergency, a capability that can truly make the difference between life and death.

Let’s begin Lesson 6, where you will develop crucial life-saving skills to handle choking emergencies confidently and effectively.

Lesson 6: First Aid for Choking – Part 1

In the first part of Lesson 6, we focus on recognizing choking and learning the initial steps for providing first aid in choking emergencies. Understanding how to quickly identify and respond to choking can be life-saving.

Recognizing Choking

  • Objective: Learn to identify the signs of choking in an individual.
  • Signs of Choking:
    1. Inability to Talk: The person may be unable to speak or breathe.
    2. Coughing: Look for ineffective coughing or a complete inability to cough.
    3. Clutching the Throat: Universal sign of choking.
    4. Skin Color Changes: The person’s skin may turn red, blue, or pale.
    5. Panic or Distress: Obvious signs of panic, such as wide-eyed, frantic gesturing.
  • Example:
    • Dining Scenario: A person suddenly stands up from their table, clutching their throat, unable to speak or cough effectively, signaling that they are choking on a piece of food.

First Aid Techniques for Choking – Mild Choking

  • Objective: Provide first aid for someone who is experiencing mild choking.
  • Actions:
    1. Encourage Coughing: If the person is coughing, encourage them to continue coughing to try to dislodge the object.
    2. Do Not Interfere: Avoid patting on the back or trying other maneuvers if the person is able to cough as it might worsen the situation.
  • Example:
    • Office Break Room: A colleague starts coughing violently after eating a snack. They are able to cough loudly, so you encourage them to keep coughing, ready to step in if the choking becomes severe.

First Aid Techniques for Choking – Severe Choking

  • Objective: Perform first aid maneuvers for severe choking.
  • Actions:
    1. Back Blows: Stand behind the person, lean them slightly forward, and give up to 5 sharp blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
    2. Abdominal Thrusts (Heimlich Maneuver): If back blows don’t work, perform abdominal thrusts. Stand behind the person, wrap your arms around their waist, make a fist and place it just above the navel. Grasp your fist with the other hand and perform a quick, upward thrust.
  • Example:
    • At a Family Gathering: A relative suddenly starts choking and can’t cough or make any noise. You quickly perform back blows, which do not dislodge the food. You then perform abdominal thrusts, which successfully clear the airway.

Lesson 6: First Aid for Choking – Part 2

In the second part of Lesson 6, we’ll delve deeper into first aid techniques for choking, particularly focusing on how to adapt these techniques for different age groups such as infants and the elderly. We’ll also discuss post-choking care.

Adapting Techniques for Different Age Groups

  • Objective: Customize choking first aid techniques based on the age of the casualty.
Infants (Under 1 Year Old)
  • Back Blows and Chest Thrusts:
    1. Positioning: Hold the infant face down on your forearm, supported by your thigh. Ensure the head is lower than the chest.
    2. Back Blows: Use the heel of your hand to give up to 5 firm back blows between the infant’s shoulder blades.
    3. Chest Thrusts: If back blows don’t work, turn the infant face-up, keeping the head lower than the chest, and give up to 5 chest thrusts using two fingers in the center of the chest.
  • Example:
    • At Home: A baby starts choking on a small toy. You perform back blows, followed by chest thrusts, which dislodge the toy from the airway.
Elderly or Pregnant Individuals
  • Modified Heimlich Maneuver:
    1. Positioning: Instead of abdominal thrusts, perform chest thrusts. Place your hands in the middle of the chest and perform quick thrusts.
    2. Careful Support: Be gentle, as elderly individuals may have brittle bones.
  • Example:
    • Community Center: An elderly person begins to choke. You carefully perform chest thrusts, which help to dislodge the piece of food.

Post-Choking Care

  • Objective: Provide care and monitoring after a choking incident.
  • Actions:
    1. Assess for Injury: Check if the person has sustained any injuries during the choking episode.
    2. Seek Medical Attention: Even if the obstruction is cleared, medical evaluation may be necessary, especially if the casualty experienced prolonged choking or required aggressive intervention.
    3. Reassurance and Comfort: Offer comfort as the person may be in shock or embarrassed.
  • Example:
    • At a Restaurant: After successfully assisting a choking diner, you advise them to seek medical attention to ensure no internal injuries have occurred. You provide water and comfort while waiting for medical professionals.

Lesson 6: First Aid for Choking – Part 3

In the final part of Lesson 6, we will address the importance of ongoing monitoring after a choking incident and discuss the psychological impact on the victim and the first aider. This segment is crucial for the holistic management of choking emergencies.

Ongoing Monitoring After Choking

  • Objective: Ensure the continued well-being of the individual after a choking incident.
  • Actions:
    1. Observe for Complications: Watch for signs of breathing difficulty, persistent coughing, or any discomfort in the throat or chest, which could indicate residual effects or injuries.
    2. Encourage Medical Evaluation: Advise the individual to seek medical attention, especially if the choking was severe or if they have any lingering symptoms.
  • Example:
    • In a School Setting: A child who choked on a piece of food during lunch is now breathing normally. You continue to monitor the child for signs of distress and recommend that the school nurse evaluate them.

Psychological Impact and Support

  • Objective: Address the emotional and psychological impact of a choking incident on both the victim and the first aider.
  • Considerations:
    1. For the Victim: Understand that experiencing a choking episode can be traumatic. Offer reassurance and psychological support.
    2. For the First Aider: Recognize that providing emergency aid in a high-stress situation like choking can also be emotionally taxing. Self-care and debriefing may be necessary.
  • Example:
    • Office Scenario: After helping a colleague who was choking, you both experience a mix of relief and residual stress. You spend a few moments debriefing with them about the incident and recommend they take the rest of the day off. You also take some time to process the event and practice self-care.

Prevention of Choking

  • Objective: Discuss strategies to prevent choking incidents.
  • Preventive Measures:
    1. Safe Eating Practices: Chew food thoroughly, don’t talk or laugh while eating, and avoid eating while lying down or in motion.
    2. Child Safety: Keep small objects out of reach of children and supervise meal times.
  • Example:
    • At a Family Gathering: You remind everyone, especially the children, to eat slowly and chew their food thoroughly to prevent choking.

Looking Ahead to Lesson 7: First Aid for Shock

Moving forward, we will transition to Lesson 7, which focuses on “First Aid for Shock.” Shock is a life-threatening condition that can occur in numerous emergencies and requires immediate attention.

In the upcoming lesson, you will learn:

  • Understanding Shock: Recognizing the different types of shock, such as hypovolemic, anaphylactic, and septic shock, and their causes.
  • Recognizing Symptoms: Identifying the signs and symptoms of shock, including rapid pulse, shallow breathing, and pale or clammy skin.
  • First Aid Management: Steps to manage and care for a person in shock, including positioning, providing warmth, and calling for emergency help.
  • Preventive Measures: Understanding how to prevent shock in various situations.

Join us in Lesson 7 as we delve into the critical aspects of recognizing and managing shock. The knowledge and skills you will acquire are essential for providing effective first aid in a range of emergencies where shock may occur.

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