What to do if you choke on food?

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During a meal, anyone can choke on food, but not everyone knows what to do. Most of the times, one chokes with food during a conversation, due to speaking with food in the mouth.

Most likely, you’ve seen at least once someone choking on food; in that moment, the person started to suffocate, feel a sharp pain in the area of the throat and cough until tearing up. The first tendency is to pat the person on the back and give him/her a glass of water. However, giving one water in this particular moment is actually dangerous. Even though it is believed that a glass of water could help the person swallow better, in reality it will obdurate one’s airways, injuring one’s esophagus and/or other tissues and producing suffocation. In conclusion, one should avoid drinking water when choking on food.

Cough is the one to help in this situation as it is the most effective way to eliminate a foreign body. In the case of coughing, alimentary particles reach the airways and cover them, so it is impossible to breathe, which leads to strong cough. Once the victim finds him/herself in the situation of not being able to breathe and cough, then he/she is in a severe situation (risk of asphyxiation)and needs someone’s help.

Thus, the victim should not waste time and ask for help through gestures as not breathing for 5 minutes can lead to brain lesions. According to specialists, a person can block the airways with a small piece of food, which leads to wheezing breathing, with a bad smell and even to the total stoppage of breathing. More than this, the person’s face changes, becoming pale or getting a bluish tint.

The easiest way to help the person is through the Heimlich maneuver:
The affected person needs to stand, while the person behind him/her will place his/her hands around the victim’s waist; one hand, clenched into a fist, will press above the bellybutton, while the other hand, placed above the fist, will press upwards 5 times, thus forcing the abdomen.

Always, the grip needs to be strong enough to determine the diaphragm to remove the air in the lungs, creating an artificial cough that can lead to the elimination of the foreign body.

Those who are alone can apply this method themselves, pressing hard in the area of the abdomen. Also, they can bend over a chair, especially if this is the only maneuver they can perform.

In very severe cases, when the foreign object in the throat of the person cannot be removed, so that swallowing is difficult and pain persists, one needs to go to the hospital as fast as possible. Sometimes complications can occur after choking, so a medic can check for them, by performing a procedure at the level of the airways (breathing through intubation).

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