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General Practice 2023

Gasgo: 5 main causes and what to do

Gasgo: 5 main causes and what to do
Gasgo: 5 main causes and what to do

Choking is an unexpected and sudden situation that interrupts the passage of air to the lungs due to an obstruction by an object or food, which can be life-threatening.

This situation can happen to both children and adults, and it is more common for children under 5 years old to choke on objects, such as coins, batteries or buttons, for example. In the case of adults, choking is more common due to food, especially when the person laughs or talks while eating.

In most cases, choking can be resolved after coughing, however there are some more serious situations in which coughing cannot clear obstructions, causing difficulty breathing, purplish mouth and face, and loss of consciousness in some cases.Check first aid for choking.

The main causes of frequent choking are:

1. Dysphagia

Dysphagia is a situation in which the person has difficulty swallowing, which may result in aspiration of saliva, which leads to choking. See more about choking on saliva.

What to do: It is important that the cause of dysphagia is identified and, thus, it is possible to start the most appropriate treatment, which usually involves the practice of exercises, guided by the doctor, to strengthen the muscles involved in the swallowing process. Check out more details about dysphagia treatment.

2. Drinking liquids too fast

Drinking liquids too quickly and/or talking or laughing while drinking some liquid can increase the risk of choking, as it can interfere with the proper functioning of the epiglottis, which is a structure that regulates the entry of food and air into the esophagus and in the airways.Thus, when the epiglottis does not close properly, fluid enters, causing choking and coughing as a reflex.

What to do: In this case, it is important to stimulate coughing to eliminate any liquid that has passed into the airways, avoiding giving the person more liquids. If the amount of fluid was excessive, it is recommended that the person be taken to the hospital to receive first aid.

3. Not chewing food properly

Swallowing poorly chewed food is one of the main causes of choking, as the body cannot make the ingested food reach the stomach, getting stuck and causing an obstruction.

The foods most at risk of obstructing the airway are bread, meat and grains such as beans, rice, corn or peas, for example.

What to do: When food gets stuck in the throat, try coughing to stimulate the expulsion of food by the diaphragm and throat muscles.It is recommended to avoid hitting the back, as this can make the situation worse and cause the food to become even more stuck. If the cough is not enough to eliminate the food, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver and call an ambulance.

It is important that food is broken into small pieces and chewed 30 to 50 times before swallowing.

4. Eating lying down

Eating in a position other than sitting can cause food not to be delivered to the stomach effectively, as the position of the throat and esophagus changes, so that food can get stuck in the throat and cause the choke.

What to do: It is indicated that the person coughs, to favor the elimination of the food that is causing the obstruction and, if necessary, the Heimlich maneuver can be performed.

5. Swallow small objects

Choking on small objects is more common in children under 5 years of age, as they are more susceptible to putting their hand in their mouth and, consequently, swallowing small objects, such as coins, batteries, buttons, as well as foods such as nuts, hard or sticky caramels, popcorn or peanuts, for example.

What to do: It is important to look at the baby's mouth and, if you see the food, you can try to remove it by hooking it with your finger. If the baby does not cry, cough or speak, it is recommended to start the Heimlich maneuver immediately. See more details on what to do in case of choking on the baby.

In the case of newborns, it is recommended that they be held on their stomachs, with the head facing the floor and feet elevated, while giving 5 small pats on the back, and then turning the baby to face check if the object has been expelled or if it is visible to be removed. If the child loses consciousness, it is recommended to call for medical attention to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

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