Knowing how to handle choking incidents can save lives
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The holidays are here and many people are getting together. Hosting a dinner party at home is a popular way to gather with family and friends, especially during Thanksgiving. When hosts and hostesses plan such dinners, much of their focus is directed to food, ambiance and topics of conversation. Thoughts of someone choking may be far from hosts’ minds, but they must know what to do, and not do, in such instances.
The National Safety Council says choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death. Food often is responsible for choking incidents in the elderly, but it can occur at any age. It’s also a leading cause of unintentional death in infants.
Knowing how to handle choking incidents can save lives and here are some great facts to know:
DO encourage the person to try to cough to dislodge the object causing the choking.
DON’T ask the person if he or she is alright. Instead, ask him or her if choking is occurring so you can take proper action.
DO look for inability to talk, difficulty breathing or noisy breathing. These often are signs of choking.
DON’T delay in calling for emergency services before you take action yourself, or have someone else call for first aid.
DO a “five-and-five” approach to deliver assistance, per the American Red Cross. This includes five back blows first. Stand to the side and just behind a choking adult. For a child, kneel down behind. Place one arm across the person’s chest for support. Bend the person over at the waist so that the upper body is parallel with the ground. Deliver five separate back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. Then follow with five abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich Maneuver. Stand behind the person. Place one foot slightly in front of the other for balance. Wrap your arms around the waist. Tip the person forward slightly. If a child is choking, kneel down behind the child. Make a fist with one hand. Position it slightly above the person’s navel. Grasp the fist with the other hand. Press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust — as if trying to lift the person up.
DON’T engage in behaviors that may lead to choking. Avoid talking and laughing while eating. Serve foods that are bite-sized and don’t rush meals. Serve the elderly softer foods cut into smaller pieces, as dentures and dry mouths can impede a person’s ability to swallow.
The risk of choking is present any time a person eats. Those who entertain at home can learn what to do when someone is choking to keep themselves and their guests safe.