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4 Things to Do if You’re Choking and Alone

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Maybe it’s because you ate too quickly trying to rush and get back to work. Maybe it’s because you were spooked by something you saw on TV and you swallowed too soon or unexpectedly.

In either case, you suddenly realize you can no longer breathe and you’re gasping for air. What’s even worse, you realize you’re all alone

In this moment, you have to act quickly under extreme duress and pressure to save your own life. What do you do?

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Here are 4 Actions to Take When Choking and Alone:

1. Hack It Up

If you are choking but can cough or make a sound, this is good news! The airway to your lungs isn’t completely blocked off and you might be able to cough the obstruction out. But it is important that you do not drink any water and attempt to force the food down. It could actually make this obstruction worse.

It can be difficult not to panic with the rush of fear and adrenaline, but it is critical to stay calm during this situation because you must act fast, in a cool and collected manner — your life depends on the proper steps being executed to dislodge the obstruction in your throat.

Try to cough as forcefully as you possibly can, in a similar manner to hacking up mucus.

It is best to call 911 if you’re still worried and able to.

2. Using the Self-Heimlich Maneuver

Generally, everyone is familiar with the Heimlich maneuver and how to use it on someone else who is choking, but it is also a technique that could be used on yourself.

To perform the Self-Heimlich Maneuver, follow these steps:

  1. Make a fist with one hand, placing your thumb of this hand below your rib cage and above your navel
  2. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press your fist into the navel area with a quick upward movement
  3. Repeat this motion until the object blocking your airway has been cleared

In an emergency situation like this, you can also press against another hard surface such as leaning over a table edge, chair, or railing. Quickly thrusting on your upper belly area as described above.

If you would like to learn this technique more thoroughly, as well as other lifesaving actions sign up for a Red Cross class. You can learn how to assist not only yourself but others as well.

 

3. Positioning Yourself Downward

This seemingly less conventional method from the Official Journal of the European Resuscitation Council offers a new way to save yourself if you’re choking and alone.

Hang your head upside-down:

  • By either striking a downward dog like position
  • Or grab a chair to kneel on and hang off of, with your head peering underneath

This upside-down head position is the same technique that is used for choking babies and is applicable for adults. Combining this technique with other lifesaving methods could be used to dislodge the obstruction from your throat.

In this study, author Artur Luczak, found: “The head-down position is already recommended during choking incidents that occur in children below one year of age. Similarly, it is suggested that in older children that back blows are more effective if the child is positioned head down.”

There is also evidence that combining the inverse position with other treatment methods improves its effectiveness in adults. They reported that successful removal of the obstructing food could be achieved only when maneuvers were aided by gravity.

One other advantage of the head-down position is that it could help remove saliva and other fluids which may further obstruct airflow during choking, particularly during partial obstruction or when a foreign object is semisolid.

 

Luczak was prompted to study this method by his own experience while choking on food and trying to remove it from his airway.

4. Bodyslamming Yourself to the Floor

The next method that could be used to dislodge an obstruction from your throat, is by bodyslamming your abdomen against the floor.

Starting from the position of being on all fours, drop your body against the ground forcefully. This uses your internal air pressure to force the object from your throat.

The video below better helps with the visual steps of this technique.

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

Finally, once you have dislodged the obstruction or food, it is best to seek medical attention regardless of the outcome. It is very important to make sure you’re ok and that there are no residential problems or any damage that has been done in your attempts to remove the obstruction or from the obstruction itself.

It is again, vital to stay calm during the event you are alone and choking. The oxygen stored in your lungs can keep you alive for several minutes, even if your breathing has been blocked.

This time period is crucial because if the obstruction is not removed within four to six minutes, you can suffer serious brain damage. Irreversible brain death occurs in about 10 minutes.

Remember, the best method to avoid choking is prevention. Chew food thoroughly and slowly, do not rush or eat too much in one mouthful. Avoiding harmful situations is always a better strategy than having to get out of them.

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