Healthier Together: Identifying choking - Would you know if the person next to you started choking?


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(Photo by Oleksii Samsonov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Would you know if the person next to you started choking? Many people confuse the signs of choking and that can cost a life.

In this edition of Healthier Together, we ask a CPR instructor what to look for to know if someone is choking.

Why can it be difficult to tell when someone is choking?

"People respond differently during choking. Adults may put one or two hands to the throat if they are choking," said Marlo Holloway, owner of An Ounce of Prevention. "But little ones may just have a bug-eyed panicky scared look. And so if someone has never taken a CPR class they may not recognize the symptoms or what someone looks like. And if you've never witnessed someone who is choking, you may not know. It may look like someone is vomiting, rather than trying to clear their airway."

What should we be looking for if someone is actually choking?

"We separate it into a mild obstruction versus a complete airway obstruction," said Holloway. "So if the obstruction is mild, someone can still talk, thy can still breathe and cough effectively. But if someone's airway is completely blocked they won't be able to say words. They won't be able to cough effectively. Maybe it's a silent cough. So those are some of the things to be looking for: Inability to speak, inability to cough and inability to move air."

How can parents and caretakers educate themselves?

"I think mental rehearsal about what to do can relax you. Definitely, hands down, take a class. Take a CPR class, take it every two years," said Holloway. "Taking a class, not just the knowledge base where you might find something online, but the hands-on, creating a muscle memory and going through the steps of actually helping someone can help you feel confident in an emergency."

Click here for printable instructions in English and Spanish: How to help a choking Child or Infant


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