Preventing And Treating Choking Events

Preventing And Treating Choking Events

Choking is a nightmarish situation.  It can happen at any time and to anyone.  It’s the kind of situation that calls for immediate thinking and action yet there are many ways to remedy a choking event and several ways to modify one’s behavior to minimize the potential for choking.  Here we’ll look at both.

 

The First Step Is Prevention

Most choking events can be prevented.  It’s a matter of responsibility on the person to a great degree.  Older people usually don’t choke as much as children and younger adults because of habit and experience.  Choice of foods matter as well as older people will consume softer foods at smaller portions and do so in a more serene setting.  Small children aren’t used to preparing their food nor the experience in how to shew and swallow.  The old saying that one’s “Eyes are bigger than your belly”, fits well here.  Kids will wolf down food in big chunks if no one is watching or prepared their food by cutting it up.  Kids will also play around with their food while dancing around or trying to talk or any number of foolish actions.

These all raise the possibility of choking and alert parents and pets, yes pets, are the only remedy of it.  Pets can sense when trouble emerges, usually long before we humans can.  They’ll also knock a toddler down and jump on their abdomens to dislodge food.  It’s a natural instinct and history proves this out.  Parents should make sure toddlers and children between the ages of 5 to 15, not fool around at the table or during any consumption of food.  Water or juice should be consumed during the meal to wash food down and keep the esophagus slippery.  Food with bones or hard particles should be inspected and none should be given to children of small stature.  Running off at the mouth while eating is one of the top culprits by which choking can occur.  In other words, proper etiquette is essential, being within arms’ reach of one another while eating can minimize any choking event.

One must establish good sense for oneself and other members of the household, and must stand firm if company arrives and their sense of etiquette and table behavior are something of concern.

Proper posture at the table is another matter.  Sitting upright will allow for food to pass easily down the esophagus and prevent food from being cramped up in the upper throat or become scrunched.  The proper use of utensils is essential.  It’s better to cut up food into smaller bite sized pieces and savor the flavor than to try to cram a far too large piece of food in one’s mouth and hope for the best.

 

Chewing

Proper chewing of food before swallowing is probably the most important preventative measure and action.  Americans are often in rushes and rarely savor their food.  They wolf it down and are often anxious while eating.  This is bad, very bad.  One must chew the food to a fine paste and then let the saliva wash it down or use a liquid to assist.  A slow chewing and swallowing motion is important and no conversation whatsoever with food in the mouth.

 

Remedies For Choking

The world owes a debt of thanks to the development of the Heimlich Maneuver.  It’s a simple way of dislodging trapped food during a choking event.  One need only stand behind the victim and clasp both hands together to make a big fist.  Placed just below the sternum or breastbone and squeeze inward and upward in a brisk motion.  This forces the pressure in the lungs and esophagus to pressure push the stuck particles up and out of the throat and mouth.  It’s standard operating procedure for saving a life and one should practice how to do it and there are many classes that teach it.  If you cannot attend a class, watching training videos on YouTube may suffice.  One must be adaptive if the victim is obese or pregnant.  The same process is suggested but one must give leeway so as not to injure the baby or miss the opportunity to do the maneuver effectively due to a person’s girth due to fat.

Patting on the back is an age old remedy that still works.  A strong series of open handed slaps on the upper back between the shoulder blades can help.  It may take several blows, but if after continuous attempts and nothing becomes dislodged, another approach may be chosen.

 

Pulling the Food Out With The Hand

It may seem gross, but if there is enough food in the mouth that is attached to that which is lodged in the throat, one might be able to pull it out with one’s fingers.  It’s risky but a desperate alternative.  Babies and small children may pose a challenge in this regard as their small mouths may make it difficult for adult sized fingers to reach in side their mouths.  In this case, chopsticks or two pencils, carefully grasped and manipulated might help.

 

Other Pressure Tactics

The key is pressure.  Providing enough pressure to the upper abdomen to force the food out like with the Heimlich maneuver.  For small persons, lifting them over your shoulder or knee with a slight sharp drop can do it.  Toddlers and babies can be turned upside down and patted on the back.  Gravity and pressure will do the work here.  If the person is too big to hold upright to perform a Heimlich Maneuver  then laying them on their back and clasping both hands together, one can push sharply upward until the food is dislodged.

There are a number of ways various cultures apply to remedy choking and it’s a good idea to study them all.  It can even be performed on most animals.  If CPR is needed after the event, don’t hesitate and make sure you always have your local emergency numbers available.  Calling 911 should be easy, but should something go wrong, you want to know ore be able to access your local police and hospitals.

 

Overall

Choking takes thousands of people out every year.  Prolonged choking can lead to death or brain and organ damage as oxygen is deprived to the brain and organs.  It’s a good idea for the family to take any number of rescue techniques like CPR and choking procedures at a local school or fire department.  Check with your city or town to see where and when these events take place, they may allow you to get lower insurance rates too.

About Dr Adam Blackwell

Adam Blackwell M.D. Author and Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU.
Dr Adam writes regularly for NBC med.