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Choking In The Unconscious Adult

Alternate Names

  • obstructed airway
  • Upper airway

Definition

Choking in an unconscious adult may occur when the upper airway, usually the throat or windpipe, is blocked by an object or irritation.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

Choking is more likely if a person:
  • swallows large, poorly chewed pieces of food
  • drinks too much alcohol
  • wears poorly fitting dentures
  • talks or laughs while eating

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the injury?

In many cases, choking can be prevented by:
  • cutting food into small pieces and chewing slowly
  • avoiding laughing and talking while chewing
  • drinking alcohol only in moderation
  • wearing properly fitting dentures

Diagnosed

How is the injury recognized?

An adult who is unconscious as a result of choking will be unresponsive. The rescuer will be unable to push air into the lungs with mouth-to-mouth breathing. Bystanders may report an episode of choking, followed by unconsciousness.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the injury?

First aid for an unconscious adult who has choked includes the following:
  • Check for signs of circulation, such as normal breathing, coughing, or movement in response to stimulation.
  • Contact the emergency medical system immediately.
  • Start cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, if the person stops breathing. If the person starts breathing, place him or her in a side-lying position and monitor closely.
  • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

The chest compressions of CPR can cause vomiting, injuries to internal organs, or broken ribs. Vomiting can be a problem if the vomit is caught in the airway and inhaled into the lungs. There is a possibility that none of the procedures may work, and the person may still choke, remain unconscious, or even die.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the injury?

It is important to obtain medical care from a healthcare professional. Occasionally, an object will enter the lung instead of being expelled. This can cause coughing, wheezing, or aspiration pneumonia.

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