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Choking (cont.)

Choking Symptoms

If an adult is choking, you may observe the following behaviors:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Hand signals and panic (sometimes pointing to the throat)
  • Sudden inability to talk
  • Clutching the throat: The natural response to choking is to grab the throat with one or both hands. This is the universal choking sign and a way of telling people around you that you are choking.
  • Wheezing
  • Passing out
  • Turning blue: Cyanosis, a blue coloring to the skin, can be seen earliest around the face, lips, and fingernail beds. You may see this, but other critical choking signs would appear first.
  • If an infant is choking, more attention must be paid to an infant's behavior. They cannot be taught the universal choking sign.
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Weak cry, weak cough, or both

What should I do if I'm choking?

Choking is an emergency. It can quickly result in death if not treated promptly. Call your local emergency medical services at 911 instead of your doctor. Do not hesitate to call for emergency help if you believe a person is choking. Do not attempt to drive a choking person to a hospital emergency department.

Although it only takes one person to administer first aid to the choking victim, there are other duties to perform. As you prepare to help the choking victim always shout for help. Have other bystanders call the 911 emergency medical system.

  • While waiting for the ambulance, follow the steps listed in the Self-Care at Home section of this article.
  • If the choking episode is successfully treated at home and there is no fear that other objects may still be in the airway, a visit to the hospital may not be necessary.

If you are alone and no one responds to your calls for help, do not leave the choking person to call 911. Begin first aid immediately.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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