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First Aid and Emergencies

Choking

Prevention - When to Call a Health Professional

Choking is usually caused by food or an object stuck in the windpipe. A person who is choking cannot cough, talk, or breathe, and may turn blue or dusky. The Heimlich maneuver , described on See Choking Rescue Procedure (Heimlich Maneuver), can help dislodge the food or object.

Prevention

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  • Don't drink too much alcohol before eating. It may dull your senses, and you might not chew food properly or might try to swallow too large a portion of food.

  • Take small bites. Cut meat into small pieces. Chew your food thoroughly.

  • Do not give popcorn, peanuts, or hard candy to children younger than 3, and supervise older children when they eat these foods.

  • Do not allow children younger than 3 to play with toys that have very small parts (smaller than 3 cm) that could be swallowed.

  • Keep balloons away from any child who may put them in his or her mouth.

When to Call a Health Professional

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Call 911 or seek emergency services if you are unable to dislodge the object using the Heimlich maneuver (See Choking Rescue Procedure (Heimlich Maneuver)) or if the person loses consciousness. Attempt rescue breathing while waiting for help to arrive. See Rescue Breathing and CPR.

Call your doctor even if the object has been dislodged. The person's throat could be damaged by the object, or there could be abdominal damage from doing the Heimlich maneuver.

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