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First Aid for Choking

Choking is a common emergency where an object blocks the airway, often leading to critical situations. Understanding how to respond effectively is vital for anyone trained in first aid.

**Identifying Choking**

It's crucial to ascertain whether a person has a complete airway blockage. If someone is coughing vigorously after swallowing water, this is a sign of partial blockage, and they can likely clear it themselves without further intervention.

How to Confirm Choking

To determine if someone is truly choking, ask, "Are you choking?" If the person is able to cough, speak, or shout, they do not have a complete blockage. Only proceed with emergency techniques if they are unable to respond and show signs of distress.

**Emergency Response Techniques**

If the individual cannot respond and is evidently choking, follow these steps:

Administering Back Blows

Comfort the person and place one arm around their stomach for support. With your other hand, deliver five firm back blows between their shoulder blades. Check after each blow to see if the blockage has cleared.

Performing Abdominal Thrusts

If back blows are ineffective, use abdominal thrusts:

  • Wrap your arms around their waist.
  • Place the thumb side of your fist just above the belly button.
  • Grasp your fist with the other hand and perform a quick, upward and inward thrust.

This action, also known as the Heimlich maneuver, may help dislodge the object by forcing air from the lungs to push out the obstruction. Alternate between five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the blockage is cleared.

**Post-Emergency Actions**

If the person becomes unconscious, check for signs of recovery. If there is no response, begin CPR immediately, incorporating both chest compressions and rescue breaths.

Seeking Medical Assistance

Regardless of whether the blockage is cleared, it is crucial to seek medical evaluation. Abdominal thrusts can cause internal injuries, so professional assessment is essential. If you cannot clear the obstruction, call Emergency Services immediately or have someone else make the call while you continue with first aid.

**Safety Precautions**

Never practice these maneuvers on a real person for training purposes, as they can cause harm. Instead, use a mannequin to familiarise yourself with the procedures.