Medical Definition of Foreign body airway obstruction

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Foreign body airway obstruction: a partial or complete blockage of the breathing tubes to the lungs due to a foreign body (for example, food, a bead, toy, etc.). The onset of respiratory distress may be sudden with cough. There is often agitation in the early stage of airway obstruction. The signs of respiratory distress include labored, ineffective breathing until the person is not longer breathing (apneic). Loss of consciousness occurs if the obstruction is not relieved. Treatment of airway obstruction due to a foreign body includes:

  • Adults: The Heimlich maneuver.
  • Children over 1 year of age: A series of five abdominal thrusts (a children's version of the Heimlich maneuver).
  • Infants under 1 year of age: A combination of 5 back blows (with the flat of the hand) and five abdominal thrusts (with two fingers on the upper abdomen).



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