What would make you suffocate while eating

Foreign body in the windpipe

The most common causes of suffocation are Foreign bodies caught in the windpipe and obstruct the airways. Especially with hectic eating, a piece of food can accidentally get into the windpipe (i.e., be aspirated) and get stuck there. In this case, medical professionals speak of an airway obstruction due to foreign bodies.

The obstructed airways usually result in convulsive attempts to breathe and the associated violent and rapid movement of the diaphragm. The affected person grabs his neck with his hand and can often no longer speak. He gasps, can no longer breathe in and out properly and panic. In addition, a strong urge to cough and a wheezing sound may occur. In severe cases, breathing stops and the patient becomes unconscious.

Initial measures in adults

Affected is conscious.If the person concerned is still conscious, stand next to and slightly behind him and bend his upper body down. While supporting the patient's chest from the front with one hand, apply up to five forceful blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of the other hand. This is supposed to trigger coughing in the person concerned.

Heimlich handle: If there is no success, the Heimlich move can be carried out. The helper wraps both arms around the person's body from behind, whose arms, head and upper body hang down as loosely as possible. The helper places his fist in the stomach area - that is, in the angle below the chest. Then the helper jerks the abdominal wall backwards and upwards with his fist - several times if necessary. The helper can put his second hand on his fist for support. The pressure exerted by the diaphragm through the airways can push the foreign body out of the trachea.

The Heimlich handle is not without danger, however, as it can lead to internal injuries and to the displacement of a previously only partially blocking foreign body with a complete airway obstruction. That is why the Heimlich handle should never be used lightly. If the foreign body cannot be removed with the Heimlich handle, try again with vigorous blows between the shoulder blades.

Affected is unconscious. If the victim is passed out, do the following:

  • Call 911 and begin resuscitation.
  • Open the victim's mouth and inspect the oral cavity. Visible You can carefully remove foreign objects with your index finger. However, blind "poking around" with your finger is not recommended.
  • If you are unconscious, begin heart massage even if there are still signs of life or a pulse can be felt. The compression can loosen the foreign body.

Initial measures in children

The same rules apply to children beyond infancy as to adults. Here, too, no attempts should be made to blindly “finger out” the foreign body, as this could push the foreign body even deeper into the airways. If the child is still conscious, they should be allowed to take up a position that is most comfortable for them.

Child is conscious. As long as the child is still coughing and breathing, should no specific measures be grasped (do not attempt to remove the foreign body!). The child will be brought to the clinic as soon as possible, preferably by the emergency doctor. It should be stored comfortably and as fearlessly as possible, z. B. in the arms of the mother.

However, if the airway is severely obstructed (indicated by difficulty breathing, weak screaming, ineffective cough, or gray skin), do the following:

  • Give up to five blows between the shoulder blades. The same procedure can be used for the child as for the adult. Smaller children and infants are best placed on their laps in a prone position. It is important that the head is positioned downwards (with babies you have to hold the head firmly).
  • If the back blows do not solve the foreign body, you can also carry out the Heimlich handle on children. If necessary, kneel behind the child. In contrast, the Heimlich handle is not used with infants because of the risk of injury. For this purpose, firm chest compressions are carried out as with chest compressions. To do this, turn the infant onto its back. Place the heel of your hand on the ball of the hand as you would with regular chest compressions, but now give harder shocks, but at a greater distance.
  • If the foreign body still does not come loose, back blows are started again and the measures described are repeated until the foreign body comes loose.

Child is passed out. If the child becomes unconscious:

  • Open your mouth and look for foreign objects.
  • Remove visible Foreign matter with your finger.
  • Clear the airways (lift chin, slightly overstretch neck) and ventilate the child as described elsewhere (resuscitation).
  • If you have not already done so, call the emergency doctor after about a minute of resuscitation if unsuccessful.


Drs. Med. Katharina and Sönke Müller; Dr. med. Arne Schäffle | last changed on at 17:11