Choking – Symptoms and Risk Factors Decoded

little kid getting choked in water

You should know about the reasons why choking occurs. When food or any other object gets stuck in the food pipe or throat, it obstructs oxygen flow. When oxygen ceases to reach your lungs, you may faint or die. It is one of the most common medical emergencies, which can prove disastrous if not attended to in time. Brain death can occur in less than 10 minutes.

The back of the mouth has two openings. One of the openings leads to the esophagus and the other to the trachea. The epiglottis covers the trachea when you swallow food. The trachea divides into a bronchus, leading to the left and right lung. Some situations in which you may choke are when you do not chew properly, or you talk or laugh. The food enters the wrong channel.

Children may also choke as they explore and put different objects in the mouth. So, you have to be careful. Here you will read about the choking symptoms and risks in detail. Such awareness is essential to act fast when a situation arises.

Choking Symptoms

When you or somebody around you chokes, you will find these telltale signs.

  • Coughing or a feeling of gagging is one of the most common symptoms of choking. When you see someone in this condition, it is better to offer water so that the object passes through. Sometimes, coughing can help eject the thing stuck in the food pipe or the throat.
  • Children will often point their fingers towards their throat. You must take note of various hand signals and act on priority.
  • If you find someone unable to talk, all of a sudden, it may be due to choking all of a sudden. So, check on the person immediately. At times, seniors will face choking hazards all too often. They often wear dentures that can get stuck in their throat. Dentures are not fixed. Hence, they can be risky. You should rely on dental implants to reduce one risk for yourself, which is choking on dentures. The latter is fixed and more reliable.
  • Many people experience Cyanosis where the skin color turns blue due to a lack of oxygen in the body. The blood gets deoxygenated when such an issue occurs. The face, lips, and nailbeds turn blue. It is one of the most critical choking signs that affect individuals apart from others.
  • Infants can also choke while lying down at times. You must keep a watch out for breathing difficulty and weak coughing sounds.

When you provide a patient with life support, the doctor may perform various tests to find the actual cause. X-rays are often required to help find out what led to the choking in the first place. However, you should know that all objects do not appear on X-rays. Coins and nails appear as opaque objects stuck in the food pipe or the trachea.

Bronchoscopy involves the insertion of a fiber optic scope into the trachea. It often comes with a camera at the end that the doctor utilizes to track the foreign object. It may also have a mechanism to capture the thing.

Causes of Choking

woman choking while gasping for breath

Choking can occur when you ingest a foreign object or eat too fast into the trachea. Children often choke as they get their saliva stuck inside the food pipe. However, choking happens quite frequently. You should know the possible reasons.

  • Acid Reflux — is one of the most common causes of choking. When it occurs, the mouth starts producing more saliva. This can make swallowing the excess saliva difficult. Other symptoms include heartburn, chest pain, and nausea.
  • Tumors in the throat — can also lead to choking. It mainly narrows the esophagus and makes swallowing a challenge. You may notice some lumps inside the throat, a hoarse voice, or a sore throat in such cases. An MRI scan or CT scan will help your doctor determine the cause.
  • Neurological Disorders — Parkinson’s disease is one of the diseases that can damage the nerves in your throat. This can make swallowing difficult. There are some other symptoms of neurological disorders that you should look out for. They are muscle weakness, impaired voice, and spasms.
  • Addiction — Excess alcohol consumption can also cause choking risks. After you consume too much alcohol, the muscle response slows down. After being incapacitated, much saliva can gather inside the throat and can lead to choking.
  • Allergies — Some allergies cause respiratory issues and lead to the formation of excess saliva. The saliva and mucus together may lead to choking.

These are the symptoms and risks of choking. However, it is preventable if you are careful while eating food. You should always take an amount inside the mouth that you can handle. Moreover, you should sleep with your head elevated. This prevents backflow. Do not chew or suck candies in a sleeping posture. If you can consider these, choking hazards are considerably reduced.

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