Different Kinds of Choking and When You Should Go to the A&E | Health Plus

Different Kinds of Choking and When You Should Go to the A&E | Health Plus
What to Do if You Choke?

Choking may occur when food gets stuck in your trachea (windpipe) or oesophagus (food pipe).

When food gets stuck in your windpipe

Symptoms

Partial choking may cause 

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness

Dangers

  • Partial choking may cause chest infection
  • Full choking may cause brain damage or death

Full choking is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to remove the blockage.

The brain will begin to die after 5 mins of suffocation.

What should you do?

Do the Heimlich manoeuvre

  • Place a fist slightly above your navel
  • Grasp your fist with the other hand and bend over a hard surface like a countertop or chair 
  • Shove your fist inward and upward

Head to the A&E department where a doctor can remove the obstruction.

When food gets stuck in your food pipe

Symptoms

  • Discomfort
  • Breathing difficulties

Dangers

  • Throat injuries from bones and hard objects

What should you do?

  • Drink water to try moving it down (if not bones or hard objects)
  • Do not attempt to remove bones and hard objects as they may injure the throat
  • Head to the A&E department where a doctor can remove the obstruction
  • Specialised equipment can remove food stuck deep in the throat

Common choking foods

  • Hot dog
  • Hard candy
  • Chewing gum
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Whole grapes
  • Popcorn
  • Chunks of peanut butter
  • Raw vegetables
  • Raisins

Common reasons why people choke

  • Talking or laughing while eating
  • Eating while running (mostly kids) = food may be inhaled with deep breaths
  • Alcohol impairs the swallowing mechanism and gag reflex
  • Big bites and improper swallowing
  • Small foods like nuts can go into the windpipe by mistake
  • Advanced age may weaken the gag reflex
  • Certain diseases like Parkinson’s may disrupt the swallowing mechanism

 

Infographic brought to you by Mount Elizabeth Hospital

Reviewed by Dr Dennis Chua, ear, nose and throat specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital

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