Choking: Symptoms, Causes, Complications And First Aid

Panaimaram

Choking is also termed as foreign body airway obstruction. It is the blockage of the upper airway due to food or other objects that prevents an individual from breathing efficaciously. Choking is a life-threatening medical emergency and most commonly occurs when a piece of food, an object, or a liquid becomes lodged in the throat . In adults, it usually occurs as a result of breathing in fumes or eating or drinking too rapidly, and children choke as a result of placing any foreign objects in their mouths .

On a single glance, choking may not seem like a severe medical condition as we all have experienced it on any normal day. Although it is short-lived and non-dangerous usually, it can become life-threatening and pose critical complications. The mechanical obstruction tends to prevent normal breathing and can be partial (allowing some air passage into the lungs) or complete (no air passage into the lungs) . The lack of oxygen can result in asphyxia, affecting your tissue and organs.

According to Injury Facts 2017, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death . Out of the 5051 deaths reported from choking, 2848 were individuals older than 74. This suggests that death by choking is commonly reported in older individuals, with food being the responsible factor. In the same line, it is also a major cause of death in children under 1-year-old .

If an individual's upper airway is blocked, the following will be the signs , .

If an infant is choking, immediate help has to be orchestrated. Because an infant may not be aware of the situation and can result in dangerous complications . And the signs are as follows:

When your airway is blocked due to a piece of food or any other object, it can develop choking - which in some cases can be fatal. In adults, choking mostly occurs when the food is not chewed properly. The causes of choking can be classified into mechanical, neurological, musculoskeletal, immunologic and infectious   .

Mechanical: These can occur as a result of not eating carefully or by swallowing foreign objects. Taking large bites, speaking or laughing while eating, and eating too quickly can cause the food to go to the wrong point and block the airway. Foreign objects that are basically non-food objects when swallowed can fall down the trachea and cause choking .

Neurological: Any disorder in the brain or the nerves can hinder with the proper functioning of your muscles, such as the muscles in your throat and mouth. So, the presence of any neurological issues can cause choking.

Musculoskeletal: Any weakness in the throat or mouth muscles can pose restriction and limitations while swallowing, which in turn results in choking .

Immunologic: Certain allergic reactions, such as the ones that can cause inflammation and swell in the back of the mouth can block airflow and cause the individual to choke .

Infectious: Infections can cause swelling in the back of the mouth which can block the airflow, resulting in the development of a choking sensation.

In older adults, advancing age, poorly fitting dental work, and alcohol consumption are some of the major causes of choking.

In adults, it is due to alcohol consumption or drug use, talking or laughing while chewing food and certain illnesses such as Parkinson's disease   .

In children, it usually happens when they place any foreign objects in their mouth (non-food), due to eating quickly or laughing while eating. Some of the most common objects that children choke on are :

Although people tend to consider choking as being seemingly harmless, untreated or unattended cases can result in death. The complications risen by choking are as follows :

If you find yourself or anyone around you choking due to a blockage in the airway, the first and foremost thing to do is black blows or the Heimlich manoeuvre   . Drinking water will also help if you feel like something is stuck in your throat as it will push the object down the oesophagus (do this only when the choking is minor with small coughs).

The first thing to be done when someone is choking is to do the American Red Cross 'five-and-five' approach. The approach involves two methods that can be carried alternatively. Begin with the five back blows and then do the Heimlich manoeuvre (if the choking still persists). However, it is completely fine to use the Heimlich manoeuvre alone . Do not use these first-aid techniques if you are not well-practised. Make sure to call for help, before beginning with the first aid techniques .

However, it is not the case that someone will be around when a person chokes. If you are alone and choking, call for help immediately. And while waiting for help to arrive, you can perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on yourself .

For an obese person

The same applies to pregnant women.

For an unconscious person

For an infant younger than age 1

If the infant is still struggling, get him or her to the nearby hospital immediately .

*Caution: Do not perform the five-and-five method on a child. Only do the above mentioned first aid methods if you are well-versed in it. Because even the slightest mistake can result in fatality.

If the aforementioned methods and techniques do not provide any relief, you will be required to undergo the following   .

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