Choking becomes more of a concern as the bulbar muscles weaken. Swallowing exercises have helped me greatly. I practice them every day, but still find myself occasionally having something lodge in my throat.
Sometimes, it is not choking, but clearing an object (e.g., crumb or skin) from the throat that causes problems. When this happens, the throat closes and I have difficulty breathing. Normally, if I do not panic and just relax while breathing normally, I can clear the throat.
Skins on apples, pears or tomatoes are often a problem for me. If I am very careful I can normally handle them, but it is easier if I do not try. Since I love apples and pears, my wife will often peel one for me and that helps. Bread or cracker crumbs are always a problem if I try to breathe while it is in my mouth. Occasionally, I will have a problem with tortilla chips. Stringy vegetables are also a problem if I am not careful. If I chew them thoroughly I can normally get by okay.
The key for me is to:
- chew food thoroughly before swallowing,
- take smaller bites, and
- not talk while chewing.
Personal Example: We were out to dinner with friends about a month ago. I broke one of the rules (talking while chewing). As I began to talk while still chewing on a chip, a crumb stuck in the throat. I felt the throat close and I gasped for air. The strangest sound comes out when this happens. Our friends were about ready to leap across the table and administer a "Heimlich" on me, but my wife just looked me in the eye and said, "Relax, try to breathe normally; you'll be okay in a moment." (She is always so calm when I am suffocating to death) I could see the eyes of our friends questioning whether they should help, but because my wife was calm, they just sat there (as I turned blue). Within a minute or so, I was okay again except for the red face and sweaty forehead.
Relaxing seems to be the key if I begin to choke. Unfortunately, it is not easy to overcome the fear associated with not getting your breath, and tightening up only makes matters worse. I have learned that if I take slow breaths I can still cough hard (especially if I practice the routine regularly). It is always good to have a coach nearby to help talk you through the process (or just in case, you really need them to clear your passageway).
As a reminder, I am including in today's post the Heimlich process.
Instructions: (Courtesy of eHow)
Step 1: Ask the choking person to stand if he or she is sitting.Step 2: Place yourself slightly behind the standing victim.
Step 3: Reassure the victim that you know the Heimlich maneuver and are going to help.
Step 4: Place your arms around the victim's waist.
Step 5: Make a fist with one hand and place your thumb toward the victim, just above his or her belly button.
Step 6: Grab your fist with your other hand.
Step 7: Deliver five upward squeeze-thrusts into the abdomen.
Step 8: Make each squeeze-thrust strong enough to dislodge a foreign body.
Step 9: Understand that your thrusts make the diaphragm move air out of the victim's lungs, creating a kind of artificial cough.
Step 10: Keep a firm grip on the victim, since he or she can lose consciousness and fall if the Heimlich maneuver is not effective.
Step 11: Repeat the Heimlich maneuver until the foreign body is expelled.
Also, in case you are alone: