Preventing Yourself from Choking

What INCREASES Risk of Choking?

“Gasping for air” (out of fear, surprise or just being “out of breath”) is usually the last thing
that happens, just before an object flies from the mouth into the airway.

  • Gasping for air while looking up creates a straight pathway out of the airway…
  • Talking, laughing, crying, running, jumping, swimming, biking, boarding, skiing, skating, climbing, tipping a chair backwards or balancing (on a ladder, on a bed or in a small boat)
    all make you more likely to gasp and inhale an object.
  • Eating food in a moving vehicle (or especially on a rollercoaster) is not safe, since you might suddenly be frightened and gasp for air.
  • Tossing and catching food is definitely not safe. It also teaches a dangerous activity to others.

What DECREASES Risk of Choking?

  • Sitting at a table, chewing and swallowing carefully and quietly (without talking).
    This might sound boring, but it’s safest.
  • Remembering which foods are choking hazards.
  • Extra care when preparing to swallow fish or poultry (use your tongue check for bones).
  • Never holding pencaps, bottle caps, pins, needles or other hardware between your lips; nor exercising with gum or candy in your mouth.

What Not to Do?

Dangerous Behaviours

  • Never buy or consume gel candies.
  • Never try to swallow a handful of nuts or any other food.
  • Never “scarf down”, “wolf down”, or “inhale” your food.
  • If you use an inhaler for your lungs, check each time before you use it to make sure no object is inside. Avoid keeping inhalers in a pocket or bag with coins.[Ref:31]

Dangerous Games

  • Eating Competitions: adults have choked to death — or suffered severe brain injury — at sausage, gulab jamun and other eating competitions.
  • Tossing up food and catching it in your mouth. Years ago, “Catching the Rainbow” with “Skittles” candy was briefly encouraged by a discontinued television ad. Today, sadly, many websites encourage catching food, such as grapes — and even trying to break grape catching records.
  • “Chubby Bunny” (stuffing one’s mouth with marshmallows): this has been lethal several times.
  • “Caterpillar” played by placing a grassheads on the tongue and repeating the word caterpillar. When played with a group, the person who can repeat the word the most times without choking or stopping is the “winner”. Please remember: a grass head can become a particularly nasty bronchial foreign body (as discussed in the Pebble in Bronchus extraction case).[Ref:21]

Did You Know?!

The majority of deaths from choking and suffocation occur in the first year of life.[Ref:43]