Does ‘slapping on the back’ really help in choking emergencies?

Image result for choking emergency

We have heard and even experienced it sometimes, when choking or coughing someone hits you on the back or you do the same to the choking person.

When first aid courses began being taught to the public, the conventional response to a choking victim was to give them a “back blow” or “back slap”.

I took a course in First Aid/CPR, yesterday January 2 , 2017 with the American Heart Association and now a professional good Samaritan, LOL.

There are quite a few things that we have done, with no scientific evidence that they actually help and one of them has to do with choking emergencies. Hope it helps someone out there.

While at the course, we discovered that as long as the person is coughing, let them cough it out before you attempt first aid. You can attempt first aid if they signal you to do so (when you see their hand on their throat), or stop breathing/pass out.

You should avoid drinking or eat anything to chase the food down, it could make matters worse. If you can reach in and remove blockage do so or else don’t force it.

In 1974, Dr. Henry Heimlich, who developed the Heimlich maneuver, often called abdominal thrusts in safety classes, published an article about the maneuver. By 1976 both the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross had incorporated abdominal thrusts.

Responders were told to give back blows, but if back blows failed to dislodge the object, give abdominal thrusts.

Heimlich later wrote in the New York Times that back blows would cause an object to get lodged into the windpipe. This has never been proven scientifically (May be that’s why we still do it in Africa). He also called back blows, “death blows.”

In 1986, both organizations stopped recommending back blows. Abdominal thrusts became the only recommended response for conscious choking for children and adults.

In 2006, the American Red Cross reintroduced back blows as the initial response to choking. The approach is called, “five and five.” If five back blows are unsuccessful in clearing the airway, then five abdominal thrusts are used. The rescuer alternates between sets of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the object is cleared. However, the American Heart Association has not reintroduced back blows. They continue to recommend abdominal thrusts as the only response to conscious choking for children and adults.

Just in case you’re wondering what on earth these procedures look like, check out the video below and remember, don’t practice this on people when you’re not sure of what to do.


Image Credit: Emedicine Health, Video: Inhouse CPR



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