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Five minute medic: Choke

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:32 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

Choking is most common among children and the elderly, but it can happen to anyone. Would you know what to do if you discovered someone choking?

Choking can be a frightening experience for both the casualty and the first aider. In our film Geraint Williams was watching television at home with his girlfriend when he began to choke on some popcorn.

We took the actor playing Geraint out onto the streets of Carmarthen to find out if people would know how to best help him.

Watch the video clip from the show

As usual the results were varied with suggestions ranging from a good thump on the back to giving Geraint some water. We asked St John Ambulance trainer Craig Rees to shows us how to deal with such a situation.

Here is Craig's advice when faced with a choking person:

  • First of all, don't panic, and confirm the casualty is actually choking, by asking the casualty, "Are you choking?"
  • If they are choking, encourage the casualty to carry on coughing.
  • If the coughing stops, then you need to act fast. You need to give five back blows using the heel of your hand between the shoulder blades. To do this lean the casualty forward over your forearm to support the upper body and deliver five short, sharp blows between the shoulder blades.
  • Check the mouth. If the back blows haven't released the object then you should perform abdominal thrusts. To perform an abdominal thrust begin by feeling for the bellybutton and the sternum, clench your fist into the soft part, into the diaphragm, then stand behind the casualty and clasp with the opposite hand and pull inwards and upwards sharply five times.
    In our film these abdominal thrusts were performed gently as not to injure our actor. Craig strongly advises that you don't practice these abdominal thrusts on anyone as it can cause internal damage. Abdominal thrusts should never use this technique on an infant under one years old.
  • After the five abdominal thrusts, check the mouth. If the casualty is continuing to choke, repeat that cycle three times. After the third cycle, you need to start thinking about calling for an ambulance.

Whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive, continue giving the treatment until either the object comes out or the casualty becomes unconscious.

If you find yourself choking Craig advises that you should try and attract attention to yourself. Don't disappear into the bathroom, which is the most common location to find a choking casualty. That will only increase the amount of time it takes for somebody to find you.

Craig also listed things you should not do in this situation:

  • Don't panic as it panics the casualty, causing their breathing rate to increase.
  • Don't give the casualty anything to eat or drink.
  • Don't induce vomiting as it won't be able to pass through the obstruction, and the vomit may end up back in the lungs.

And if the five minute medic has awakened your interest in first aid, then the Community First Responder volunteer scheme which helps the ambulance service respond more quickly to emergencies would love to hear from you.

Anyone who lives in Wales can get involved, and Ambulance Officer Tony Bond has been in touch to appeal especially for volunteers in the Cwmbran, Pontypool or Blaenafon areas. You don't need previous first aid experience, as you will be offered training.

If you are interested in volunteering in the Torfaen area contact Tony Bond at tony.bond@ambulance.wales.nhs.uk. If you're interested in volunteering in another area then contact Mr Tony Rossetti (tony.rossetti@ambulance.wales.nhs.uk).

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