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Home Health Library Topics Choking

Overview

Choking can be a deadly breathing problem. It happens when a small object or food gets stuck in the throat or windpipe. This blocks the airflow and keeps the brain from getting oxygen.

Symptoms

A choking person might clutch one or both hands to their throat. They may look panicked, shocked or confused. They may not be able to talk. When they try to breathe, they might make strained, noisy or squeaky sounds. They may have a weak or strong cough. Their skin, lips and nails might change color, turning blue or gray. They might pass out.

Treatments

In general, if a person is choking, strike them between the shoulder blades with the heel of the hand five times. Then wrap arms around their waist. Press a fist into their stomach and give five upward thrusts, called the Heimlich maneuver. Repeat these steps until the object comes loose. Call 911 or the local emergency number right away.

Last Updated: November 5th, 2022