What is Choking?
Choking is the mechanical obstruction of the flow of air from the environment into the lungs. Choking prevents breathing, and can be partial or complete, with partial choking allowing some, although inadequate, flow of air into the lungs. Prolonged or complete choking results in asphyxia which leads to anoxia and is potentially fatal. Oxygen stored in the blood and lungs can keep a person alive for several minutes after breathing stops.
Choking can be caused by:
- Physical obstruction of the airway by a foreign body.
- Respiratory diseases that involve obstruction of the airway.
- Compression of the laryngopharynx, larynx or vertebrate trachea in strangulation.
- Laryngospasm, a temporary closing of the vocal cords, which simulates the feeling of choking.
Obstruction of the airway can occur at the level of the pharynx and the trachea. Foods that can adapt their shape to that of the pharynx (such as bananas, marshmallows, or gelatinous candies) can be a danger not just for children but for persons of any age.
Choking due to a foreign object resulted in 162,000 deaths in 2013 up from 140,000 deaths in 1990.