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How to help someone who is choking

Often, when someone is choking, they find they can neither breathe nor talk, and while they are still conscious they try to gesture what is wrong with them. This choking can sometimes lead to emergency situations or even death if it is not dealt with in time. Learn the techniques that could save a life, by finding out exactly how to react when you are faced with a person who is choking. 

The causes for choking

When a person who is choking can’t breathe any more, they tend to use their eyes to communicate and move their arms, with their mouth open.

Most of the time, an object or a piece of food has become stuck in their airways instead of going down their oesophagus, which prevents the person from coughing, speaking and breathing. You need to act quickly!

The two methods to try during a choking incident

Call the emergency services. While you are waiting for them to arrive, first try Method 1 outlined below and then try the second method.

Method 1: Back blows

First of all, start by leaning the person forward, placing one hand on their chest and the other on their back.

Firmly slap them on the back 5 times between the shoulder blades, in order to get them to cough up the object or food that is stuck.

Method 2: Heimlich Manoeuvre

If this technique doesn’t work, try the Heimlich Manoeuvre, which you saw in Mrs. Doubtfire (with Robin Williams), which consists of applying abdominal pressure. Stand behind the person, raise their arms (which will give you access to their stomach) and press with your fist between the rib cage and the bellybutton. Press down on your fist with your other hand, applying the pressure in an upward motion, towards the breastbone. The goal is to press on the diaphragm to eject the object with the force of air from the lungs.

If nothing works, call the emergency services and continue to alternate the two methods, without exceeding more than 5 consecutive attempts each time.

If the person loses consciousness, you will need to start CPR.

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