How to Tell When Someone is Choking


(Modern – What is the universal distress signal for choking?

• Blue tongue out

• Finger pointing to mouth

• Frantic arm waving

• Both hands to throat

Answer: Both Hands to Throat. Here’s why…

Everyday medical emergencies can be every bit as deadly as facing a natural disaster — at least for the person experiencing the emergency. Being able to recognize the signs of a person in distress could lead them to receive lifesaving care.

For example, a choking person has little time to survive due to a lack of oxygen. Therefore, it’s critical to recognize this emergency when it happens.

What are the signs that a person may be choking?

Both Hands to Throat

The universal sign that someone is choking involves them placing both hands on their throat. This signal is usually accompanied by panicked behavior. Not being able to breathe is a scary situation to be in, and rarely will anyone face it calmly.

Not Always Obvious

When a person has a foreign object lodged in their throat, the signs are not always as obvious as them grabbing at their throat. For one, they may have already passed out from lack of oxygen. Or they could be having a coughing fit as their body attempts to dislodge the object.

Here are a few other signs that a person may be choking:

  • Bluish lips or skin
  • Gagging
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Unable to speak
  • Unconscious

How to Help

Choking on a foreign object is scary, but oftentimes the human body will expel the item without assistance. Coughing can force open a blocked airway, for example. If the choking person is conscious or able to speak, they may not need help.

If, however, the person is unresponsive, cannot speak, or asks for help in another manner, it’s a good idea to provide aid.

  • Responsive Choking Victim – For a choking individual who is conscious, the Heimlich maneuver can be used to dislodge a foreign object blocking their airway. The following video from Howcast shows how to perform the Heimlich maneuver:
  • Unresponsive Choking Victim – If the choking victim is unconscious, begin by clearing the mouth of any foreign materials using a finger swipe. According to the American Heart Association, CPR consisting of chest compressions and rescue breaths should be used now. Before administering the rescue breaths, check to see if the chest compressions have dislodged the foreign object (if they have, remove it from the victim’s mouth).

Knowing how to recognize and react to an emergency situation as it develops can save lives. This is why preparing for everyday emergencies is as important as prepping for large-scale disasters. For more information on why everyone should be prepared to face day-to-day problems, check out our article on the 95/5 rule.

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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