Medical Definition of Choking (object in airway)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

Choking (object in airway): Partial or complete obstruction of the airway can be due to a foreign body (e.g., 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 5 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 5 abdominal thrusts (with 2 fingers on the upper abdomen).

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018