7 Choking First Aid Tips to Help You Breathe Easier this Holiday Season

Dec 20, 2022 | Health & Wellness

The holidays are a hustling, bustling time, filled with parties, shopping, wrapping, wassailing, and so much more. Throughout this festive fun, we should remain aware of any potential health hazards that exist. With so many food-centric activities taking center stage, choking is always high on the list.

Keeping a level head and knowing what to do in the event of an emergency will be paramount to providing a helping hand.

The most common red flags for choking include:

  • Clutching at the throat
  • A panicked or shocked appearance
  • Inability to speak
  • Strained, raspy, squeaky, or noisy breathing
  • Coughing (weak or forceful)
  • Blueish skin color (lips and fingernails may also change color)
  • Loss of consciousness

Experts recommend the following choking first aid tips to keep in mind when attending your next holiday get-together.

  1. Remain calm. Things can get hectic and bewildering when someone starts to show signs that their airway is blocked. But staying calm is critical and enables you to be of service. You will be able to think more clearly and take the proper steps to help.
  2. Let them cough. If the individual is coughing forcefully, allow them to continue, as coughing may dislodge the object.
  3. If choking is severe – have someone call 911.
  4. Grab a chair. If the person choking is standing up, have them sit down so that they’re at a level that’s lower than your own. This makes it easier for you to administer first aid.
  5. Attempt back blows: Leaning the individual forward, use one hand to support the person’s chest and the other to administer up to five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
  6. Administer abdominal thrusts (a.k.a. the Heimlich maneuver). To do this, stand behind the person, placing your arms around their waist. Make a fist with one hand and place it just above their navel, but below the ribcage. Grabbing that fist with your other hand, give a quick upward thrust—almost as though you were trying to lift them off the ground. (For children, kneel behind them and use gentle, but firm, pressure to avoid damage to organs.)
  7. Alternate tactics. The Red Cross recommends what is referred to as the “five and five” approach – five back blows, five abdominal thrusts, and alternated reps of both until the object is dislodged and the person can breathe freely again.

The potential for choking exists whenever we’re eating or drinking, but it’s a particularly common holiday hazard when more food is being consumed in a festive atmosphere filled with laughter and conversation.

Additionally, holiday decorations like tinsel and small toys can be alluring to small children, but deadly if swallowed. Hard candy and mints, too, are also popular treats at this time of year – but can easily block the airways of young children. Be sure to supervise small children and particularly during mealtimes.

And if you haven’t yet, consider learning CPR. While CPR is no guarantee that choking will be prevented, it certainly increases the chances of survival until professional help arrives. Your local Red Cross or similar organization should be able to point you in the right direction for lessons.

Keeping these choking first aid tips in mind can help make a difference if and when the need arises.

As always, Quality First Urgent Care is standing by to help with any health needs you may have, throughout the holiday season and beyond.