The forkful looks so good! You can’t wait to sink your teeth into it. Uh oh…too much, too quickly. Most of us have experienced this and can relate! Choking is a real risk especially for our children and seniors. Believe it or not, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death and the leading cause of infant deaths.

Choking happens when an object, usually food, gets stuck in the windpipe, blocking airflow. A lack of air can cause brain damage in as little as four minutes. If a person is choking and can not cough, talk or breathe, they may need the Heimlich Maneuver to dislodge the object in their throat. The Heimlich Maneuver is performed by administering a series of abdominal thrusts. Follow these steps on grown children and adults (not on infants):

  1. Get the person to stand up.
  2. Position yourself behind the person.
  3. Lean the person forward and give five blows to their back with the heel of your hand.
  4. Place your arms around their waist.
  5. Make a fist and place it just above the navel, thumb side in.
  6. Grab the fist with your other hand and push it inward and upward at the same time. Perform five of these abdominal thrusts.
  7. Repeat until the object is expelled and the person can breathe or cough on their own.

For infants, never perform the Heimlich Maneuver as noted above. Instead, follow these steps on infants less than a year old:

  1. Sit down and hold the infant face down on your forearm, which should be resting on your thigh.
  2. Give five back blows gently with the heel of your hand.
  3. If that doesn’t work, position the infant face up and resting on your forearm and thigh so their head is lower than their trunk.
  4. Place two fingers at the center of their breastbone and perform five quick chest compressions.
  5. Repeat the back blows and chest thrusts until the object is expelled and the infant can breathe or cough on their own.

To prevent choking, always be sure to cut food into small pieces and chew thoroughly.  As for young children, be vigilant about keeping small objects such as marbles and beads out of reach. Also, consider taking a first aid course. Keeping our families safe is always a first priority!