First Aid for Foreign-Body Airway Obstruction

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First Aid for Foreign-Body Airway Obstruction


First aid procedures for foreign-body airway obstruction can save the life of a person if applied correctly and immediately. The first aid procedures are different for adults, children, and infants. Foreign-body airway obstruction may be a life-threatening medical emergency because the brain can only survive a few minutes without oxygen so, knowing what are the first aid procedures could be a huge advantage. Response to a choking person depends on the degree of foreign-body airway obstruction but being aware and having knowledge about first aid might be a key to save a life. In this article, first aid procedures for foreign-body airway obstruction were highlighted and in addition, the definition, causes of choking, risk factors, and its first aid measures have been mentioned and given attention as well.


Foreign-body airway obstruction. It occurs when a piece of food, an object, or a liquid blocks the throat. Children often choke as a result of placing foreign objects into their mouths. Adults can choke from breathing in fumes or eating or drinking too rapidly.

Some airway blockage is minor, while others are life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention. . Rapid first aid for choking can save a person’s life.

Who is at risk for airway obstruction?

Children have a higher risk of obstruction by foreign objects than adults. They’re more likely to stick toys and other small objects in their noses and mouths. They may also fail to chew food well before swallowing.

Signs of Choking and Rescuers Actions

Choking is a common preventable cause of cardiac arrest. The correct response for a choking person depends on the level of airway blockage, whether the person is responsive or not, and the age of the person. See Table below for rescue actions for choking in adult, child, and infant.

 DEGREE OF OBSTRUCTION                      RESPONSIVENESS                             RESCUERS ACTIONS      


Mild Airway



  • Good air exchange
  • Breathing but may also be wheezing
  • Coughing and making noise
  • Do not interfere with the victims owns attempt to relieve the obstruction instead, stay with the person and try to keep them calm
  • Encourage them to cough
  • Call local emergency alerts if the person does not clear the obstruction or similarly seems to be getting worse



Severe Airway Blockage




  • Grasping the neck (the universal sign of choking)
  • Weak or no cough
  • Unable to make noise or talk; may make a high-pitched noise
  • Little or no breathing
  • Appears cyanotic (blue around lips and fingertips


  • If the victim is an adult or child ask if he is choking. If the victim nods “yes” and cannot talk, severe airway blockage is present. ( Certainly, an infant cannot respond to questions)
  • Use abdominal trust (adults and child) to attempt to remove the obstruction. However, five back slap (infant) to remove the obstruction
  • Begin CPR if a person becomes unresponsive
  • If you are not alone, send someone to activate the emergency response system indeed.
  • If you are alone, provide about 2 minutes of CPR before leaving to activate the emergency response system.



Choking Relief in a Responsive Adult or Child

The Heimlich maneuver is a first-aid procedure used when a person is choking. The Heimlich maneuver should only be used when a person is responsive and older than one year of age.

A person who can’t cough, speak, or breathe, however, needs immediate help. Ask if they are choking and let them know you will use abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver, to prevent suffocation.  Check the table below.

(See figure 1 and 2)


1 Stand behind the victim with one leg forward between the victim’s legs. But for a child, move down to their level and keep your head to one side


2 Reach around the abdomen then locate the navel


3 Place the thumb side of your fist against the abdomen just above the navel and well below the breastbone


4 Grasp your fist with your other hand. After that thrust inward and upward into the victim’s abdomen with a quick, forceful upward thrust


5 For a responsive pregnant victim or obese victim, perform chest thrusts instead of abdominal thrusts; avoid squeezing the ribs with your arms


6 Continue thrusts until the victim throw out  the object or the victim becomes unresponsive


Table 2



Adult first-aid-for-foreign-body-airway-obstruction

Figure 1. We can help an adult with severe airway block by doing this.



Child first-aid-for-foreign-body-airway-obstruction

Figure 2. Child Chocking First Aid Action.


 Unresponsive Victim

If the victim becomes unresponsive. Follow these steps:

1 Shout for help. If someone else is available, send that person to activate the emergency response system.
2 Gently lower the victim to the ground if you see that he is becoming unresponsive.
3 Begin CPR, starting with chest compression. However, do not check for the pulse.
4 Each time you open the airway to give breaths, in the same way, open the victim’s mouth wide and look for the object.
5 After about 5 cycles or 2 minutes of CPR, activate the emergency response system, if someone not already done so.

Table 3


Choking Relief in Infant

Follow these steps to relieve choking in a responsive infant:

 1 Kneel or sit with the infant in your lap.
 2 It is easy to do, remove clothing from the infant’s chest.
 3 Hold the infant face down with the head slightly lower than the chest, resting on your forearm. Support the infant’s head and jaw with your hand. Take care to avoid compressing the soft tissues of the infant’s throat so, you must rest your forearm on your lap or thigh to support the infant.
 4 Deliver up to 5 back slaps (Figure 3) forcefully between the infant’s shoulder blades, using the heel of your hand. Afterward, deliver each slap with sufficient force to attempt to dislodge the foreign body.
 5 After delivering 5 back slaps, place your free hand on the infant’s back, supporting the back of the infant’s head with one hand with the palm of your hand. The infant will be appropriately held between your 2 forearms, with the palm of one hand supporting the face and jaw while the palm of the other hand supports the back of the infant’s head.
 6 Provide downward chest thrusts (figure 4. b) in the middle of the chest over the lower half of the breastbone. Deliver chest thrust at a rate of about 1 per second, with the intention of creating enough force to dislodge the foreign body.
 7 Repeat the sequence of up to 5 back slaps and up to 5 chest thrusts until the object is removed or the infant becomes unresponsive.

Table 4



Figure 3. How to help infants in severe airway block, (Up) Chest thrusts, (Down)  Back slaps.


Performing Abdominal Thrust to Self

If you are alone and you are choking, you can also perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.

You can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself. Follow these steps:

(See figure 4)

  1. Make a fist with one hand after that place the thumb of that hand below your rib cage and above your navel.
  2. Grasp your fist with your other hand then press your fist forcibly into the upper abdominal area with a quick upward movement

You can also lean over a table edge, chair, or railing. Quickly thrust your upper belly area (upper abdomen) against the edge. If you need to, repeat this motion until the object blocking your airway comes out.



Figure 4. Perform chest thrust instead of abdominal thrusts in a pregnant or obese choking victim.


Actions after Choking Relief

You can tell if you successfully removed an obstruction in an unresponsive victim of you.

  • Feel movement and see the chest rise when you give breaths
  • See and remove a foreign body from the victim’s mouth

After you relieve choking in an unresponsive victim, treat as you would any unresponsive victim. Check for responsiveness, check for breathing and pulse, confirm that the emergency response system has been activated, and provide high-quality CPR or rescue breathing as needed.

If the victim is responsive, encourage the victim to seek immediate medical attention. Hard abdominal thrust might be given as a result of potential complications from abdominal thrusts appeared and should be evaluated.

To prepare yourself for these situations, learn the Heimlich maneuver, and CPR in a certified first-aid training course.




https://www.healthline.com/health/airway blockage



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