What to do if someone is choking on food

Dear Editor,

Across North America close to 4000 perfectly healthy people annually die from choking on food. In fact, food-choking kills more people than firearms or airplane accidents. Often the victim, anxious to avoid an embarrassing scene runs alone to the bathroom, where he is later discovered dead. His companions often think their friend suffered a heart attack. Don’t be deceived – their friend died because he could not breathe. What, then, should you do when confronted by a choking victim?

The first problem is recognition. Food-choking is a life-threatening medical emergency that is fatal in minutes unless action is taken. Instinctively, a victim will clutch his throat – a universal symbol of choking. A person with food stuck in his windpipe will not be able to talk. Before doing anything, simply ask the person to speak. If there’s a response, do nothing further except stay with the person and encourage coughing as a way of independently clearing the airway. When the choking has worsened to the point where the person can no longer speak, you should tell him/her that you understand what’s happening and that you are going to help.

Get behind the person and give three or four firm blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. This may dislodge the obstruction; check by asking the person to speak. If there is no response you must proceed with a simple but effective procedure known as the ‘Heimlich Manoeuvre.’ Stand behind and encircle the person with your arms. Make a fist with one hand and place the thumb side over the part of the belly, just below the breast bone. Place your free hand over your fist, then give three or four sharp, hard squeezes, upward and back. Again check whether you have been successful by asking the person to speak; if silence, then repeat the back blows, followed by the abdominal thrusts.

If the victim is too big for you to get your arms around, or is pregnant, the technique needs to be altered slightly; instead of putting your fist over the upper part of the belly, place it over the lower third of the breast bone. If sitting instead of standing, simply crouch behind and put your arms around the person who’s in the chair.

What if the person becomes unconscious and has fallen to the floor? The lifesaving process remains very much the same. Kneel beside and roll the person towards you and onto your lap. Give four hard blows between shoulder blades to dislodge the obstruction and then roll the person onto his back. Place the heel of one hand over the lower third of the breast bone, and your other hand directly over it. Give four vigorous thrusts and hopefully, the food will pop out. Finally, scoop out the victim’s mouth with your finger to remove any food which may have been dislodged.

Can you do it yourself? Certainly! There are many people who have successfully saved their own lives by putting their fist over the upper part of their bellies, and then compressed their abdomens by leaning forward forcibly over a firm object such as the back of a chair or edge of a table.

Let’s review the steps:

(1) Identify the problem; ask can you
speak?

(2) Reassure the victim; don’t let him/her
run away.

(3) Give four firm back blows.

(4) Check again,”Can you speak?”

(5) Give four vigorous abdominal or chest
thrusts.

(6) If he/she continues to choke, repeat the
sequence.

Yours faithfully,
George L Munroe
Executive Member Canadian College of
Health Service Executives

More in Letters

default placeholder

GRA employees are not public servants

Dear Editor, According to the media there appears to be a misconstruction of roles, respectively of the Chairman and Board of the Guyana Revenue Authority, and that of the President, GPSU; probably because in one instance the authors are uninformed of the Revenue Authority Act 13 of 1996, amended by 16 of 2003, Clause 2 (1) which reads as follows: “Functions of Governing Board (16 of 2003) “(1) The Governing Board shall be responsible for – “a)   subject to subsection (2) the approval and review of the policy of the Authority; “b)   the monitoring of the performance of the Authority in carrying out functions; and “(c)  the discipline and control of all members of staff of the Authority appointed under this Act.” In an apparent rush to personalise a difference of positions between the two parties much ado has been made of the quoted expressions of the Chairman, as distinct from the statutory authority of that office and the Board.

default placeholder

Fishermen from Guyana and Suriname are the ones most affected by piracy

Dear Editor, I write on behalf of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisation, the Guyana National Fisherfolk Organisation and the Suriname Fisherfolk Organisation ‒ Visserscollectief.

default placeholder

SOCU and SARU wield a political hatchet but masquerade as law enforcement agencies

Dear Editor, Just last week, I examined the causal connection between taxation and fear and economic decline in the context of the Guyanese economy.

default placeholder

To hang or not to hang

Dear Editor, To hang or not to hang has been a topic in Guyana, the Caribbean and much of the free world for several decades.

default placeholder

Working at grass-roots level more effective than Candlelight Vigils

Dear Editor, I wish to express my appreciation for the complimentary remarks and invitation extended by Mr Annan Boodram of Caribbean Voice in his letter of 21st July in the Stabroek News, in the context of the ‘debate’ on rum and alcoholism, etc (‘Letter on alcoholism referred to all alcoholic drinks, not just rum’).

default placeholder

Thoughts on the second day of the Test

Dear Editor, Lunch-time second day of the first Test India v West Indies: I watched half of the morning session on TV and listened carefully to the comments of Bishop and Dujon about the handling of the bowlers.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.



Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: