First Aid for Choking

During a meal, a man lurches from his chair and clutches his throat. His face turns read and he seems unable to breathe.

Ask, "Are you choking?" If the victim nods yes and he cannot speak, cough, or breathe, perform back blows and abdominal thrusts.

Do not interfere with a person who is conscious and can speak, cough, or breathe. He is still getting air into his lungs. Encourage him to cough up the object, and be ready to administer first aid if it is needed. Have someone call for help.

Food caught in the throat is like a cork stuck in the neck of a plastic bottle. Nothing can get in, but squeeze the bottle the right way and the cork will pop out. That's the principle behind using back blows and abdominal thrusts. Here's how to do it:

  1. If the child or adult is conscious, give a series of five back blows. From behind, place one arm across the person's chest and lean forward. Firmly strike the person's back with the palm of your hand. Follow the five back blows with abdominal thrusts as described in steps 2 and 3.
  2. Stand behind the victim. Put your arms around the waist and clasp your hands together. The knuckle of one thumb should be just above the victim's navel but below the rib cage.
  3. Thrust your clasped hands inward and upward with enough force to pop loose the obstruction.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 until the obstruction clears or medical help arrives.

If a choking person is very large or has lost consciousness, use this method:

  1. Lay him on the floor and sit straddling his thighs.
  2. Place the heel of one hand on the victim's upper abdomen, slightly above his navel but below the rib cage.
  3. Place your other hand on top of the first and press upward with quick thrusts.
  4. With your index finger, probe the mouth of an unconscious victim to remove any obstructions. Be ready to start rescue breathing.
  5. Repeat this procedure until the obstruction pops loose or medical help arrives.

If you ever choke on food and cannot breathe, clutch your throat with your hand. That's the universal sign for choking, and it might bring someone to your aid. If there is no one nearby, perform the abdominal thrusts on yourself by pulling your fist into your upper abdomen, or you can bend over the back of a chair and force it against your belly.

Thrusts to the abdomen can cause rib fractures and other injuries. Use only mannequins or other training devices to practice or demonstrate abdominal thrusts.

This requirement is described on pages 296-297 of the 2008 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook.

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