About Choking

Choking is a form of suffocation/asphyxia due to obstruction of the respiratory airway. It is caused by inhalation and/or ingestion of a foreign object that partially or completely blocks the airway, the entrance to the trachea – respiratory passage – usually between pharynx and bifurcation of trachea.

Choking is a very dangerous life threatening medical situation which leads to respiratory suffocation and if not addressed “promptly and appropriately” in cardiac arrest.

Partial Airway Obstruction: If airway obstruction is partial, the victim if not panicked, especially if it is an adult, can cough and expel the foreign object without assistance and/or medical care.

Complete Airway Obstruction: If airway obstruction is complete, usually occurs when a foreign object is inhaled and becomes stuck (like a cork) between the vocal cords, and regardless of the age of the victim, particularly in case of children and elderly people, removal of the foreign object is impossible without assistance and/or medical care, leading the victim not to be able to breathe.

Breathing is an essential part of life. When we inhale, we breathe in a mix of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases.

In the lungs, oxygen enters the bloodstream to travel to the rest of the body. Our bodies use oxygen as a fuel source to make energy from the food we eat. Carbon dioxide, a waste product, enters the bloodstream and travels back to the lungs.

When we exhale, we breathe out carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen. When someone is choking with a completely blocked airway, no oxygen can enter the lungs.

In this case Choking requires fast, appropriate action by anyone available. The brain is extremely sensitive to this lack of oxygen and begins to die within four to six minutes. It is during this time that first aid must take place. Irreversible brain death occurs in as little as 10 minutes.

Emergency medical teams may not arrive in time to save a choking person’s life.

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