Choking hazards are all around us. Most people choke at some point in their lives but it is usually quickly resolved and doesn't pose a danger. There are, however, times when it can go wrong, leading to life-threatening complications. Here are some things to know that might just save a life.
Signs of choking
The following behaviours might indicate that a person is choking:
Coughing or gagging
Panic and hand signals for help
Inability to speak, make noise or breathe
Turning blue around the lips, face and nails due to a lack of oxygen
Clutching the throat
Infants who are choking may show signs of breathing difficulty, weak crying and/or coughing
What happens when a foreign object gets stuck in your throat or food pipe?
Pain when swallowing
Difficulty swallowing (including saliva)
Throat injuries from bones and hard objects
What should you do?
Drink water to try moving it down (if not bones or hard objects)
Do not attempt to remove bones and hard objects by yourself as they may injure the throat
Head to the A&E department where a doctor can remove the obstruction
Specialised equipment may be needed to remove food stuck deep in the throat
How to tell if it is an emergency
When choking is severe, the person won't be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe as most of their airway is blocked. Without help, they will eventually lose consciousness.
If this happens, quickly perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on them and get help immediately by calling emergency services or visiting the A&E.
If the person loses consciousness, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.
Some items that may get stuck in the throat (potentially everything!) include:
Small fish bones
Other less common items include:
Nuts and seeds
Chunks of meat or cheese
Chunks of peanut butter
Common reasons why people choke
Talking or laughing while chewing and swallowing
Eating while running (mostly kids) = food may be inhaled with deep breaths
Alcohol impairs the swallowing mechanism and gag reflex
Big bites and improper swallowing
Small foods like nuts can go into the windpipe by mistake
Advanced age may weaken the gag reflex
Diseases like Parkinson's may disrupt the swallowing mechanism
During a medical emergency in Singapore, you can also call +65 6473 2222 for an ambulance that will transport you to the nearest hospital or a hospital of your choice. Learn more about Parkway Emergency services.
Choking (2019, September 10) Retrieved December 04, 2020, from https://www.emedicinehealth.com/choking/article_em.htm
Heimlich Maneuver (2017, August 04) Retrieved December 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/heimlich-maneuver
What Should I Do if Someone is Choking? (2018, August 21) Retrieved December 04, 2020, from https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/what-should-i-do-if-someone-is-choking/