Figure 5-1. Universal distress signal for choking.
CLASSIFY THE SEVERITY OF THE BLOCKAGE
Airway blockage can be divided into two major classifications--partial blockage
and complete blockage. In partial blockage, some air can still be inhaled and exhaled.
In complete blockage, air flow stops. Partial blockage can be further divided into partial
blockage with "good" air exchange and partial blockage with "poor" air exchange. In
order to evaluate the severity of the obstruction, tell the casualty to speak to you ("Talk
to me. Are you choking?" and so forth).
a. Partial Airway Obstruction with Good Air Exchange. If a casualty with a
partial obstruction can speak or can cough forcefully, he has "good" air exchange.
Good air exchange indicates that the casualty can still inhale and exhale enough air to
carry on all life processes. A casualty may have good air exchange even if he makes a
wheezing sound between coughs.
b. Partial Airway Obstruction with Poor Exchange. "Poor" air exchange is
indicated by a weak and ineffective cough, high-pitched noises (strider, like crowing)
while inhaling, and increasing difficulty in breathing. Cyanosis may also be present. A
casualty with poor air exchange is not inhaling and exhaling a sufficient amount of air. If
the casualty is not helped, he will probably loose consciousness and die.
c. Complete Airway Obstruction. A casualty who has a complete airway
obstruction cannot breathe, speak, or cough. If the obstruction is not removed quickly,
he will become unconscious due to the decreased supply of oxygen to the brain. If
respiration is not restored, his heart will stop beating about 30 seconds after he looses