Few things are more frightening than choking on a piece of food or inhaling fluid. That terrifying moment when you cannot get a breath and reflexively begin coughing is not soon forgotten. Yet it happens all the time. Do you know what to do when a loved one chokes?
Children and the elderly are most often the victims of a choking emergency. Difficulty swallowing associated with age and illness or injury, such as is common with brain injury or stroke, is frequently the cause of choking in the geriatric population. Children, on the other hand, are curiously exploring their world through touch and taste. Toddlers instantly put whatever their fingers grasp into their mouths and older children on occasion do too. Because a child’s “windpipe” (aka trachea) is only as big as an adult’s little finger, foreign bodies can easily lodge causing the child to choke.
Fortunately, U.S. military physician, Dr. Henry J. Heimlich published findings about his now-famous “Heimlich Maneuver” in 1974, the first choking victim saved only weeks later. Victims around the world have been rescued by this technique ever since and the skills required to master the Heimlich Maneuver is part of every Basic Life Support and CPR course taught nation wide. Knowing what to do in a choking emergency requires training, particularly with the Heimlich Maneuver because age and size factor into how the technique is delivered. A choking infant is rescued with a different method than a toddler, child or adult. Having the skill to step into the emergent situation and act quickly by performing the Heimlich Maneuver correctly can mean the difference between life and death.
Learning this skill is something everyone should do, young and old. Make it a priority in 2012 and be prepared to save a life.