How To Save A Suffocating Person: Limited Time For The Necessary Actions

Date April 18, 2018

A person is suffocating when an object of a small size (for example, a piece of food) gets into the respiratory tract and prevents the flow of air. You should be able to find the way to get the foreign body out of the person using the following methods.


Unforunate accident

With a favorable combination of circumstances, the affected is able to cough away the foreign body. However, in more serious situations, the help of another person may be required.

Stages of help

Important: The instructions described below are only applicable for adults and children over one year.

Algorithm for uncomplicated suffocation

With uncomplicated suffocation, the person is able to cough, breathe, and speak.

Here's what you can do to help them:

  1. Tell the person to cough until the lumen of the airways is restored.
  2. Ask him/her to spit out the foreign body.


Algorithm of actions for complicated suffocation

With complicated suffocation, a person can’t talk and cough, and the breathing is difficult. Here's what you can do:

  1. Stand behind the person.
  2. Put one hand on the person’s chest and help him lean forward.
  3. Put your palm of the second hand on the back and make five sharp pushes into the area between the blades.
  4. Check if the foreign body came out.

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If the above procedure was unsuccessful, perform Heimlich maneuver (abdominal shock):

  1. Stand behind the person.
  2. Wrap your arms around his/her waist.
  3. Make a fist with your one hand and place it directly over the navel.
  4. Grasp the fist with the second hand and press towards yourself and up.
  5. Repeat this movement five times.
  6. Check if the foreign body came out.

Important: If the affected person is pregnant or suffers from obesity, to perform Heimlich maneuver, his/her hands should be placed in the center of the sternum, but not over the navel.

You can also try another method that includes five back pushes followed by five abdominal ones. After each attempt, it is necessary to check whether the foreign body came out. If the person is unconscious, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation process (only if you know how it is performed) before the ambulance arrives.


Advanced learning

Theoretical knowledge of the first aid is only half of the success, as many people are simply lost when an emergency situation occurs. To solidify the information you know, it is necessary to pass the first aid courses (for example, those offered by the International Committee of the Red Cross). Remember, once you saved someone’s life, the next time someone will save yours.


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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.