I remember when I was about 11 or 12 and my dad had promised that I could go out with my friends if I hurried up and finished my lunch. Who was I to disappoint, right? I ate my food as quickly as I could while my dad was in the kitchen only for something to get lodged in my throat. I couldn’t call out for help but it was scary as my airway became blocked. It wasn’t too deep and I was able to stick my finger in and remove the food. I didn’t have a clue what the correct thing to do was but I did learn to chew my food properly after that.
Once the oxygen supply is blocked, you have around four to six minutes before your brain can start to suffer serious damage. Irreversible brain death occurs in about 10 minutes. My choking experience was nowhere near these figures but it sure as hell felt like it.
The important but hardest thing to do is to remain calm, speed is key!
Try to Cough it Free
If you can cough or speak any words then it means that your airway is not completely blocked so the first thing that you should try to do is cough it out. Using as much force as you can muster to try and cough the food free. Whatever you do, do not try to get it free by drinking anything as it can make the situation much worse.
Solo Abdominal Thrust
The actions needed to perform a solo thrust on yourself are the same as you would use on someone else that is choking. The only difference is that you are doing it to yourself.
- Make a fist with one hand and put the thumb side between your belly button and rib cage.
- Wrap your other hand around your fist.
- Push as hard as you can in a quick motion straight into the area (pit of your stomach). This will exert pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm which compresses the lungs and forces the remaining air to push up through the trachea which if done with enough pressure it should dislodge the food.
Although that is the basics of how to perform abdominal thrusts on yourself, we do recommend that you take the time to join a local class to get more hands-on training.
Using a Chair
If the above procedure does not work then your next option is to use a chair using the following method:
- Keep your hands in the same position as described in the method above and lean quickly over the back of a sturdy chair to exert more force into the push.
- This provides a hard pressure wave designed to drive air upward, providing enough force to propel the food out of its stuck position.
Call Emergency Services
If you have tried five or six quick thrusts and the food has not become dislodged, call emergency services immediately. At this point, you’ve likely lost quite a bit of air and even though you can’t speak and may pass out soon, emergency responders can help.
They will automatically send help to any call, even if no one is talking on the other end. In some areas, they have the technology to do this for cell phone calls as well although ideally you should make the call from a landline phone.
Even if you manage to get the food out it is still recommended that you go to the emergency room for a check-up. The type of hard thrusts necessary to dislodge the food can do some damage to your abdomen and organs, so you might be facing a ruptured spleen or other issues. Some of the food can even enter the lungs which would need to be dealt with so as not to cause inflammation, collapse or infection.