You’re sitting down to have a wonderful meal one minute, and the next you’re coughing up a storm, fighting to talk, grasping at your throat, and struggling to breathe. Choking is less hazardous when someone is nearby and understands what to do in such a scenario, but it can be fatal when you are alone.
According to Statista, there will be 5,325 choking fatalities in the United States in 2021. Choking is most frequent among the elderly, and food is generally the source of the problem. Choking can occur in children when they place foreign things in their mouths.
If you ever find yourself choking, you might believe that reaching for a glass of water at the dinner table and taking a few swallows will help, but doctors highly warn against it. According to the British Red Cross, drinking water while choking not only does not assist in curing the problem but can make it worse by producing further obstruction.
Whether you start choking, the first thing you should do is test whether you can cough and talk. “If you’re able to cough, say words, or speak in any way, you’re not completely occluded,” Dr. Sanford Vieder, medical director of Lakes Urgent Care in West Bloomfield, Michigan, told SELF.
Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Even if you are unable to talk, the person on the other end of the line should be able to read your distress signals (coughing and difficulty breathing) and dispatch assistance.
According to Denis Kelley, CRP Coordinator at Parkview Health, this is especially crucial if you lose consciousness as a result of choking. The second advice is to cough as loudly and strongly as possible. “The cough reflex is still your best friend in trying to expel whatever may be stuck or caught,” Dr. Sanford Vieder (via SELF) explained.
If this fails, you can do the Heimlich technique on yourself. Make a fist with your hand, thumbs pointing in, and position it behind your ribs and above your navel. According to Medical News Today, wrap your other hand around your fist and shove it into your stomach in an in-and-up motion.
This short, strong, and fast action should drive air back up and, perhaps, release that pesky bit of food trapped in your throat. It is also possible to “find something to thrust your abdomen over to dislodge the object, whether it be the back of a chair or a countertop, and keep thrusting until the object dislodges,” according to Kelley.
You might believe that we all eat consciously and slowly, but this is not always the case. Laughter, excessive conversation, and drinking alcohol while eating are all part of the enjoyment of dinnertime. All of these can lead to choking. According to CPR123, alcohol can affect the way your muscles typically respond, and this relaxed gag reflex can lead to choking. It’s also not uncommon to eat more quickly and less consciously when alcohol is around.
If necessary, cut your food into smaller pieces and chew thoroughly before swallowing. It’s also crucial to sit up straight and give yourself enough space to absorb.”Eating is a serious business, even if we don’t give it much thought.” “It’s important to eat more slowly and pay attention,” Dr. Sanford Vieder (via SELF) stated.
It may also be beneficial to brush up on your first aid abilities so that you are prepared should risky scenarios arise. Learning what to do first if someone starts choking, how to do the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself and others, and even CPR if someone you know has choked and lost consciousness might be beneficial.
Health Digest By Jennifer Anandanayagam contributed to this report