Choking can be a serious and even life-threatening medical emergency. When food or another object gets stuck in the airway, it can prevent oxygen from reaching the lungs and brain. This can cause brain damage or even death if not treated quickly. Without oxygen, brain damage can occur in as little as 4 minutes.
Did You Know:
According to Injury Facts, it's the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death.
In 2020, 3,000 people died from choking, and 1,430 of those were older than 74.
More than 12,000 kids are taken to the ER yearly for food-related choking injuries. On average, in the US, one child dies every 5 days from choking on food.
That's why it's so important for everyone to know how to recognize and handle choking situations, both at home and in public places.
Abdominal thrusts are the recommended treatment for someone who is choking. Also known as the Heimlich maneuver, abdominal thrusts can quickly dislodge an object and clear the airway. Everyone should know how to perform abdominal thrusts, as they could one day save a life.
The anti-choking device Dechoker and the Heimlich maneuver are two ways to save someone from choking, but which one is better? Unfortunately, many people aren't sure which one to use in an emergency.
Continue reading to find out!
But What Exactly Is Choking?
When you think of choking, you might think of someone clutching their throat and gasping for air.
Choking occurs when an object blocks the throat or the trachea, which is the airway that goes from the throat to the lungs. This can happen if you accidentally swallow an object or if something gets lodged in your throat. If the thing blocking the flow of air to the lungs is not removed, it can prevent the person from being able to breathe correctly or at all.
This can be mild or severe, depending on how much the airway is blocked. With mild choking, you will still be able to speak or cough. However, with severe choking, you may be unable to make a sound because the airway is completely blocked.
While choking is serious, it is important to remember that it is also preventable. There are a few simple steps you can take to help avoid choking:
- Avoid swallowing large pieces of food. Cut your food into small pieces and chew slowly and carefully.
- Avoid eating while distracted. Turn off the TV or put away your phone while you eat so that you can focus on your food.
- Be careful with hard candy and chewing gum. Supervise older children and adults when they are chewing gum or hard candy.
- Avoid placing small objects in your mouths, such as coins, buttons, or beads. These can easily get lodged in your throat and cause choking.
- Most cases of choking occur when people are eating too quickly or laughing and talking while they eat.
- Excessive intake of alcohol before and during meals can also increase the risk of choking.
- In some cases, choking can be a medical emergency. If someone is choking and cannot breathe, it is important to call 911 immediately and perform CPR if necessary.
Choking Hazards for Kids
So what can you do to keep your child safe from these dangers? The best bet is to cut foods into small pieces and supervise your child while they're eating. If you're ever in doubt about whether something is safe for your child to eat, better to be on the side of caution and don't give it to them at all.
Some of the most common foods that can cause choking are hot dogs, nuts, seeds, raw vegetables, small fruits, hard sweets, dried fruit, large chunks of meat, whole beans, and marshmallows.
Do not let young children chew gum or hard candy, as they may choke on it.
When it comes to choking hazards, many parents don't realize just how many common household items pose a threat to their children. Latex balloons, marbles, small balls, coins, and even small toy parts can all be potential choking hazards. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a battery (especially button batteries) can be dangerous if swallowed.
Keep children safe by preventing them from running or playing when they have food or toys in their mouths.
Mealtimes, playtimes, and parties are all times when choking can occur. That's why it's important to be vigilant and watch children closely during these times.
Eating in the car is also risky, as a child can choke without the driver noticing. So be safe, and don't let your child eat in the car. With a little awareness and caution, you can help prevent choking accidents.
We all know that children love to put things in their mouths. They're curious and exploratory, and unfortunately, that can sometimes lead to choking. While most objects that cause choking are non-food items like toy parts or coins, food is also a leading cause of choking deaths in children. 41% of all choking deaths in 2000 were due to food objects.
Candy is especially associated with aspiration emergencies – 19% of all ER visits for choking are due to candy ingestion. And it's not just hard candy that poses a risk – gummy bears, chocolate, caramel, and other chewy or sticky candies are also major culprits. Coins are another leading cause of choking incidents in young children, accounting for 18% of ER visits for children ages 1 to 4.
Signs and Symptoms of Choking in a Child
If you think your child might be choking, it's important to know the signs.
Here are 5 things to look for:
- Coughing or gagging. If your child's breathing sounds wheezy or whistle-like, this is a sign that their airway is blocked.
- Clutching their throats. The universal sign of choking is when a child is holding their neck with both hands.
- Can't answer your questions. If your child is choking and can't make a sound or cry, their airway is probably blocked.
- Turning blueish, especially around their fingers, lips, and face. If your child's face starts to turn blue or gray, or your child's lips or fingernails start to turn blue, this is a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen.
- Loss of consciousness or passing out. If your child passes out, this is a medical emergency, and you should call 911 immediately.
What Is and How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver?
The Heimlich maneuver or abdominal thrust is a lifesaving technique everyone should know. This simple maneuver can be the difference between life and death in the event of choking. Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, a renowned thoracic surgeon, first described the maneuver in an article in the June 1974 issue of Emergency Medicine.
Abdominal thrusts expel air from the lungs, forcing a foreign object out of the airway. So if you find yourself in a situation where someone else is choking, it's important to know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. This simple maneuver can be the difference between life and death.
The first thing you should do if you see someone choking is to determine whether or not they are still conscious and able to cough on their own. If they are, then it's likely that they will be able to dislodge the object on their own, and you won't need to intervene. However, if the person cannot speak or breathe or if they are signaling for help, you will need to take action.
If someone is present, the first thing you should do is have them call 911 for emergency help. However, if you are the only person present, then you will need to begin first aid treatment. To do this:
- Start by getting the person to stand up.
- Position yourself behind them and lean them forward.
- Give them five blows to the back with the heel of your hand.
Then you will need to:
- Place your arms around their waist and make a fist with one hand.
- Place this fist just above their navel and below their breastbone.
- Thrust your fist upwards into their diaphragm with enough force to dislodge the object blocking their airway.
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on a Pregnant Women
When performing the Heimlich maneuver on pregnant women, you must pay attention and place your hand a little higher on the torso, near the base of the sternum. If the pregnant woman is unconscious, slowly lay her on her back and try to clear the airways with your finger. If you cannot remove the object blocking the airway, begin CPR.
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on an Obese Person
If you're worried about how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on an obese person, there's no need - it's actually quite similar to performing the maneuver on a pregnant woman. Simply place your hands a bit higher, right under the breastbone, and follow the same steps.
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on an Infant
First, sit on the floor, hold the baby's face down and rest it on your forearm, which should be resting on your leg. Then gently tap their back with your palm five times. If that doesn't work, take two fingers and place them in the middle of the sternum and do five compressions. You repeat the procedure until the object is expelled and the child starts breathing again.
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself
When you're alone and choking, just follow these steps:
- First, make a fist with the thumb inward.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand just above your navel and simultaneously push it in and up. Repeat this five times.
- Repeat until the object is expelled and you can breathe or cough on your own.
- If it doesn't work that way, you can push the upper part of the stomach against a hard edge like the corner of a table or counter or the back of a chair.
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on a Dog
Here's what you need to do:
- Stand behind your dog and grasp him around the waist.
- Place your fist just below the ribcage and give five quick thrusts.
- If you're not sure you're doing it correctly, ask your vet or a professional dog trainer for help.
What Is a Dechoker and How Is It Used?
The Dechoker is a device that promises to save lives by preventing death from choking.
It works by creating a suction force that frees the airway.
The Dechoker is easy to use and comes with an attached face mask that fits around the mouth.
A health professional usually uses the device, but the company claims you can use it on yourself, which is a bit challenging.
Dechoker Vs Heimlich Comparison Table
When to use
It's recommended to be used only when traditional first aid techniques have failed
In case of choking
How to use
Work by sucking choking objects out of the airway
5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts repeatedly until the object is removed and the person can breathe or cough on his own
There’s less risk of injury than the Heimlich maneuver
It can leave the choking victim with injuries in their ribs or belly because of abdominal thrusts
Not recommended for neonatal (infant) use
Not recommended for use on infants 12 months or younger. Instead, babies should only receive back blows
Can be performed on
Toddler, child, and adult
Children, adults, pregnant women, obese or yourself
Suction-based airway clearance devices (ACDs). DeChoker belongs to the second group that are minimally invasive
Is a technique whereby subdiaphragmatic compression creates an expulsive force from the lungs that is able to eject an obstructing object from the airway.
Note: Anti-choking devices should be used if the victim is still choking after trying the Heimlich maneuver several times.
If you're interested to learn about a choking rescue device that, unlike Dechoker, is non-invasive and easier to use, then read our review of Lifevac. We also wrote a detailed comparison guide between Lifevac and Dechoker to see which one is better.
Dechoker Vs Heimlich - Is the Dechoker Better Than Heimlich?
The Heimlich maneuver is the more well-known of the two, and it's recommended by many as the best first-aid technique for choking. However, its effectiveness has been questioned recently - especially regarding children. A study from 2009 found that the Heimlich maneuver was only effective in 85.6% of cases, which means that 14.4% of people who used it didn't get the relief they needed.
The Heimlich maneuver has been around since 1975 and is endorsed by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association. However, it can be difficult to use on obese or disabled children, and it can cause injuries in the ribs or belly from the strong, repetitive movements. Additionally, even after the child is no longer choking, you should still take them to the hospital for evaluation.
The Dechoker works like a plunger, with a mask placed over the choking person's mouth. You press down on the plunger, then pull up to suck out the object blocking the airway. The Dechoker doesn't need any power or batteries, and it comes in different sizes to accommodate children as small as 22 pounds (it can be used on children as young as one year old).
Anti-choking devices can be used even after several attempts to perform the Heimlich maneuver. This is because they suck up objects that cause the child to choke, thus reducing the likelihood of injury to the child's body.
The DeChoker is a simple life saving device that you can use on a choking child who is sitting up or lying down.
Dechoker claims to help with choking emergencies. However, there is not enough evidence about the safety or effectiveness of Dechoker to recommend their use.
Local newspaper Queen City News reported that state investigators raided Dechoker's office for illegal business activities in May 2018.
The FDA has issued a warning letter to the company that manufactures the Dechoker, claiming that the device is "adulterated" because the manufacturing process is not in the current good manufacturing practice requirements of the Quality system regulation.
It's important to remember that both of these options are better than doing nothing at all. So if you or someone you love is choking, don't hesitate - act quickly and use whatever method you feel most comfortable with.