Choking is a risk for anyone at any age. It is a blockage of the airways that can prevent breathing. While there are ways of addressing choking and swallowing problems, the best method of treatment is the prevention of choking. This can be done by following basic guidelines for specific age groups and being aware of how to respond in specific situations.
Know Choking Signs
To react to a choking incident quickly and effectively, it is important to know the signs of choking. Several of the signs to look for are:
- Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or taking short, shallow breaths can be a sign that someone’s airway is being obstructed. It can also be a sign of a deeper respiratory problem and requires immediate medical attention.
- Wheezing: Wheezing is a problem where a person struggles to breathe. The breaths that do come through sound forced and make a tight wheezing sound as if the person has to focus on forcing the air through their windpipe.
- Coughing: Coughing is a physical response to airway obstruction in which the throat contracts quickly and forcefully to try to force the obstruction out. Consistent coughing is a sign that the obstruction is blocking the airway and needs to be removed immediately.
- Panic without breathing: When people start to choke, they may not make a sound. However, they often have a panicked look on their face. If a person looks panicked but cannot speak, that person might be choking.
- Dizziness: Choking reduces or stops airflow. Being deprived of air leads to dizziness and can eventually lead to unconsciousness.
- Turning blue: Another side effect of being deprived of air is turning blue. Since there is not enough air circulating in the blood, it reverts back to its normal blue, unoxygenated color. You can see this on the skin, usually in the hands and face.
There are many other signs of choking not covered by this list. If you think that someone is choking, call for emergency medical assistance as soon as possible. If you are trained in emergency medical techniques, then call for help and begin applying those techniques until help arrives.
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Choking hazards are common since nearly anything small enough to each can be a hazard. Most choking incidents happen with food that is too hard to chew properly or swallowed in pieces that are too big. Grapes and hot dogs are common choking hazards. Grapes are soft and can easily get stuck in your windpipe. Hot dogs are thin enough to travel into the windpipe but not small enough to pass through. Unless you chew them thoroughly, hot dog pieces often get stuck on the way down.
Ways to Prevent Choking
The simplest way to prevent choking is to ensure that nothing larger than a dime passes through the windpipe. For seniors, this can mean limiting eating to soft foods that are easy to chew. By limiting the choking risks that seniors have access to, you can reduce the chances of choking or prevent choking entirely.
Another way to prevent fatal choking incidents is to learn CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver. Having the ability to resolve choking problems without the need for additional medical aid can be life-saving. You will be able to help seniors immediately, reducing the chances of death or serious side effects.
For seniors, there are many things that create choking risks. According to the journal Geriatrics, caregivers must address all of the risks that they can find simultaneously to offer seniors a greater level of protection. Some of these choking risks include:
- Small objects
- Asthma attacks
- Dehydration (lack of saliva)
- Swallowing problems associated with dysphagia
Consult with medical professionals to find the best ways to address these risks, and to ensure that seniors get the help that they need to prevent choking. They can also help you design a safe eating environment where seniors experience a lower choking risk.
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Safe Eating Environments
Nursing homes can protect seniors from choking by creating safe eating environments that focus on safe swallowing strategies. These include removing foods that can be serious choking hazards and pre-cutting food into bite-sized pieces. Having support nearby that is properly trained in life-saving procedures is also a good idea. Plus, creating a space where seniors can focus on eating with minimal distractions or difficulties can help.
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In many cases, choking can be prevented with proper care. Nursing homes can implement strategies to keep residents safe while eating. If inadequate care puts residents at risk, facilities can be held responsible. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 201-3999 to learn more.