Overview of Choking

Choking is the blockage of airflow to the lungs that occurs when a foreign object more often enters food into the windpipe instead of the esophagus (food pipe).

Signs and Symptoms of Choking

Choking is the obstruction of airflow to the lungs that occurs when some foreign object more often enters food into the trachea (windpipe) instead of the esophagus (food pipe).
Choking happens either by partial blockage of the windpipe or completely blocks the airways. If the foreign object is at the start of the trachea, then coughing will probably push it out. But if it crossed the trachea, then avoid doing any procedure that will further push into the windpipe.
Choking blocks the oxygen supply to the brain. The brain can only survive for a few minutes without oxygen supply.
A survey by Injury Fact Report (2017) stated that, ‘Choking is at the fourth place of death caused by unintentional injury’.

It can be life-threatening!

You must know its symptoms and how to cope with it at home or at a public place in case of emergencies.

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Types of Choking

Sign and symptoms of choking include;

  • Difficulty in speaking
  • High pitched wheezing sound
  • Ineffective and weak cough
  • Cyanosis (skin color becomes bluish due to lack of oxygen)
  • Grabbing at throat
  • Loss consciousness
  • Unable to swallow further

Causes of Choking

Choking is categorized into two types:

  • Complete obstruction

It occurs when an object enters into the windpipe and blocks the air flow completely. It might create a wheezing sound as the victim is unable to throw an object from his mouth. It needs assistance to expel the object by applying force on the abdomen (abdominal thrusts). In case of pregnant women, chest thrust is recommended.

  • Partial Obstruction:

It is the partial obstruction of airways. A normal cough can help in expelling the object from the mouth. Make sure that the casualty will cough enough to throw out the object.


Risk Factors of Choking
  • Improper chewing of food
  • Talking or laughing while eating
  • Eating speedily without taking breaths
  • Large-sized food
  • Hard food material
  • Habit of putting small objects in mouth (in small children)

What is choking sensation anxiety?

Choking or Globus sensation is not always linked with swallowing but also happens in some other diseases such as GERD, muscle disorders and mental health problems. Choking sensation leads towards anxiety. Persistent feeling of something stuck into your throat is often annoying and may stress you.
No need to worry about having choking sensation anxiety, you should talk with your healthcare provider.



  • Young children
  • Infants
  • Old age people

Old people are more susceptible to choking as they lose some muscle reflexes required to expel food from trachea. For example, patients with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Alcohol consumption (damage refluxes of windpipes)


You can prevent choking especially in children by keeping an eye on them while they play. Keep away all small objects from your children's access like, coins, very small blocks and erasers. Child’s food should be well-cooked, soft and cut into small sized pieces to make swallowing easy. Make sure they don’t talk while chewing food.
For adults, chew your food properly and eat slowly. You should keep water or liquid juice near you. Avoid talking while eating or chewing.

Treatment of Choking | When to Consult a Doctor

To confirm that airway blockage is due to choking, a doctor performs several tests which include; x-rays and bronchoscopy.

  • X-rays: It finds out the extent of blockage in the airways. The blockages seen on x-rays are known as Radiopaque. Radiopaque objects like coins, nails etc. are visible through x-rays on the chest or neck.
  • Bronchoscopy: An instrument is inserted into the airways to look for foreign objects inside the airways. It has an attachment that can pull the object out.

Doctors to treat Choking

Last updated on Wednesday 26/10/2022


Assist. Prof. Dr. Bakht Aziz

ENT Surgeon, Rhinoplasty Surgeon, Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist | MBBS, BSc, FCPS, CMT

Defence Medical GroupRs 2500


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Prof. Dr. Sami Mumtaz

ENT Surgeon, Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist | MBBS, FRCS

National Hospital & Medical CenterRs 2500


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Dr. Khurshid Alam

ENT Surgeon, Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist | MBBS, FRCS

Doctors HospitalRs 4000


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