Would you know what to do if your loved one was choking?
Choking is a major cause of accidental deaths in all age groups. A person may choke if food is chewed too quickly or not enough. If a person has trouble swallowing due to any type of illness, he or she may be more prone to choking.
The Five and Five Approach
The American Red Cross recommends the “Five and Five” first aid approach to assist a person who is conscious and choking.
Signs Someone Is Choking
- The person cannot cough, speak or breathe
- Weak coughing, difficulty breathing, noisy breathing
- Nails, skin, and lips are turning gray or bluish
- Clutching throat (the universal sign for choking)
- Loss of consciousness
If a person is exhibiting one or more of these signs, it is time to spring into action!Administer first aid and tell someone to call 911. If you are alone with the choking victim, call 911 after you've attempted first aid.
Conscious Person Choking: Use the "Five-and-Five" First Aid Approach
1. Get Consent
Ask the person “Are you choking?” If the person can breathe, talk or cough, do not interfere. Encourage them to cough. Tell person to nod if they can’t speak.
2. Remove Object
Open the person’s mouth. Remove any object that is blocking breathing if you can see it. Do not do a finger sweep if you cannot see the object.
3. Give Five Back Blows
Stand behind the person to the side. Place one hand on their chest and have them lean forward at the waist. With the heel of your hand, give five sharp back blows in the area between the shoulder blades. After each blow, check to see if the obstruction has cleared.
If back blows do not help, tell the person you are going to do abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver).
4. Give Five Abdominal Thrusts
Stand behind the person. Wrap your arms around the waist. Bend them forward slightly. Make a fist and position your fist above the person’s navel (bellybutton). Cover your fist with your other hand. Quickly thrust both hands inward and upward, as if trying to lift the person up. Do five thrusts.
5. Alternate 5-and-5
Alternate 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged, the person can cough strongly or breathe easily or if the person becomes unconscious.
6. Call 911
If the person is still choking after you have administered CPR, immediately call 911 and follow their instructions until emergency services arrive.
Unconscious Person Choking – Call 911!
Call 911. CPR can save lives but it is best done by someone who certified. The steps described here cannot substitute for CPR training.
- Position the person on his or her back. Place person’s arms by his or her side.
- Open the person’s mouth. Dislodge blockage, if you can see it. Don’t force it.
- Lift Head. If there is no blockage that you can see, tilt the person’s head by lifting the chin up.
- Check for breathing. Place your ear close to the person’s mouth. Watch to see if their chest rises and falls. Do this for 5 seconds.
- If the person is breathing,maintain an open airway by keeping chin lifted. Make sure 911 was called and wait for ambulance.
- If the person is not breathing,perform rescue breathing. Pinch person’s nose and cover their mouth with yours tightly.
- Give two rescue breaths. If chest rises, person is breathing. Keep head lifted and wait for ambulance.
- Do 30 Chest Compressions. If chest does not rise, give 30 chest compressions.
- Open mouth, remove object if you can see it and it is loose.
- Repeat steps 2-4 until person is breathing or trained EMS personnel arrives.
It is important that the victim gets medical attention even if the choking has stopped. Let paramedics examine him or her.
Anyone who has ever been in a situation where a person is choking knows that it can be a scary experience. Unfortunately, due to dentures and trouble eating and swallowing, the elderly may experience choking at some point.
If you’re the primary caretaker for an elderly family member, you can help prevent choking by reminding them to chew their food slowly and thoroughly. Dentures that do not fit well may pose a choking hazard while eating, so food should be cut into small pieces or pureed. Special care should be taken when drinking alcohol as it can dull senses and contribute to choking. FirstLantic home health aides are also specially trained to administer first aid in cases where it is warranted.
FirstLantic wants patients to live as safely and as independently as possible in their own homes, which is why our home health aides are trained to prevent and identify signs of choking, as well as to administer first aid in situations when necessary. Bring peace of mind to your family and hire a FirstLantic home health aide today.