Asphyxiation and Choking


Asphyxiation is a medical condition in which the body is experiencing an extreme lack of oxygen due to any number of factions leading to abnormal breathing.

Choking is one form of asphyxiation and occurs when a foreign object becomes lodged in the throat or windpipe, obstructing normal airflow.

Over an extended period, asphyxia, including choking, can result in coma, brain and body tissue damage and even death.

Asphyxiation can happen to anyone at any time for any number of reasons, and so it is important to be aware of the signs as well as to know what to do in these situations.


Aside from choking, other causes of asphyxiation may include:

  • Drowning or being in another low oxygen atmosphere
  • Drug overdose
  • Respiratory Illnesses, which cause a constriction or obstruction of airways, including from asthma or  laryngospasm
  • Environments where the air is contaminated and sufficient oxygen cannot be obtained, eg smoking building.
  • Prolonged inhalation of various gases such as carbon monoxide, and chlorine gas
  • Contact with certain poisonous chemicals
  • Severe damage to the windpipe through trauma
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • An extreme case of seizure


If a person is unable to signal that they are choking or asphyxiating, look for the following signs:

  • Inability to talk
  • Noisy struggled  to breathe, especially squeaky-sounding breathing
  • Squeaky sounds when trying to breathe
  • Skin, and lips turning blue
  • Excessive coughing
  • Loss of consciousness


Wherever possible, call for professional help services, such as an ambulance or your nearest Doctors-on-call.

While waiting for help to get there, you can try to dislodge the blockage yourself by taking the following measures:

It is important to try to dislodge the obstruction as quickly as possible. The famous Heimlich manoeuvre is simple:

On another person:

  1. Stand behind the person, wrapping your arms around their waist. In the case of a pregnant woman or highly obese person, position your arms higher, at the base of the breastbone.
  2. With one hand, make a fist and clasp it with the other hand
  3. Place both fists above the navel and perform quick, firm upward thrusts. Perform up to 10 at a time, until the blockage is dislodged.

On an unconscious person:

  1. Lay them down on their back and try to clear the blockage in their throat with your fingers, careful not to push it further back.

On yourself:

  1. With one hand, make a fist, placing your thumb below your ribcage and above your navel.
  2. With the other hand, press your first hand into the area and perform quick upward thrusts into the area.

On an infant/toddler

  1. Sit down, place infant/toddler face down on one forearm, and rest your forearm on your knee.
  2. Supporting their head and neck and ensure their head is placed lower than their torso.
  3. Using the heel of your hand with fingers pointing up, thump the infant firmly in the middle of their back up to five times.
  4. Turn the infant over to face you, again with head lower than the torso. Use two fingers to press into infants chest bone up to five times, in short, quick compressions.
  5. Press down about 3 cm and let the chest rise back on its own between compressions.
  6. These back blows can be combined with chest thrusts if the infant still is not breathing by then.

Even if the blockage has become dislodged, it is important the choking person receives medical attention after the choking incident. The blockage may not be completely dislodged and choking may re-occur. Not to mention, the prolonged lack of oxygen may have caused other unseen damage.


In the event of choking or other forms of asphyxiation, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Doctors- on-Call are house call doctors equipped and available at a moment’s notice to tend to such emergencies. Our doctors are even able to assist you with advice and instruction while on their way.

Doctors-on-call as house call doctors is able to perform emergency asphyxiation treatments, perform thorough examinations and determine whether one may need further medical attention in a hospital. In this case, our doctors will make all the necessary arrangements.

A choking incident can be very scary to experience or witness and you don’t have to go it alone. Have Doctors-on-Call (house call doctors) emergency contact details available and do not hesitate to contact the very second you suspect asphyxiation damage.