FAQ Level 3 Award for First Responders on Scene: Emergency First Responder (RQF) FROS® - Online Blended Part 1

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Choking Statistics

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Understanding Choking: Causes, Risks, and Interventions


Choking remains a significant cause of accidental death worldwide, with particular risk among the elderly population. Recognizing the factors contributing to choking incidents and understanding timely interventions are crucial for preventing fatalities.

Risks for the Elderly

  • Lack of Teeth: Reduced ability to chew food effectively.
  • Dry Mouth: Diminished moisture in the mouth, making food less easily swallowed.
  • Statistics: Office for National Safety (ONS) data reveals a higher choking death rate among individuals aged 65 and over compared to younger age groups.

Time Sensitivity

The urgency of addressing choking incidents is paramount, particularly during episodes of "penetration syndrome," characterized by sudden choking and unproductive coughing.

  • Hypoxia Risk: Even brief periods of oxygen deprivation (4 to 6 minutes) can lead to irreversible brain damage.
  • Emergency Response: With an ambulance call-out time of around eight minutes, swift intervention is essential to prevent fatalities.

Incidence and Interventions

Recent studies shed light on the frequency of choking incidents and the effectiveness of interventions.

  • Study Findings: The British Medical Journal reports a significant number of choking incidents requiring emergency assessment, with higher incidence rates observed at meal times.
  • Historical Perspective: Dr. Henry Heimlich's pioneering work led to the development of the Heimlich manoeuvre, revolutionizing choking interventions.

Heimlich Manoeuvre Controversy

Debate surrounds the use of the Heimlich manoeuvre versus alternative interventions, with varying protocols adopted by different organizations.

  • Protocol Variations: Some protocols advocate for abdominal thrusts over back blows, while others maintain the use of the Heimlich manoeuvre.
  • First Aid Guidelines: Adherence to national first aid guidelines is essential for appropriate choking intervention.