2.2 Obstructions in the Airway
NOTE: Emergency treatment of airway obstructions is taught as part of CPR training and only through classroom practice can the necessary skills be mastered. The mechanics of handling airway obstructions are presented in this tutorial for background insight only
If an individual is choking – but can speak or cough forcibly – there is an exchange of air (although it might be diminished) and you should encourage the victim to continue coughing while you just stand by! On the other hand, if a victim is choking, but CANNOT speak or cough, an airway obstruction exists which must be treated immediately!
The treatment for an obstructed airway in a conscious victim involves use of the Heimlich maneuver, which is performed as follows:
• Stand behind the victim.
• Wrap your arms around the victim’s waist.
• Make a fist with one hand and place the thumb side of the fist against the victim’s abdomen just above the navel and well below the lower tip of the breastbone.
• Grasp your fist with your other hand, with elbows out, and press your fist into the victim’s abdomen with quick, upward thrusts.
• Each thrust is a distinct, separate attempt to dislodge the foreign object.
• Repeat thrusts until foreign object is cleared or the victim becomes unconscious.
• Emergency treatment of airway obstructions in an unconscious victim is taught in CPR classes
2.3 Heart Attack
Heart attacks are among the leading cause of death in the United States. A heart attack happens when one or more of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart become blocked. When this occurs, cells in the heart begin to die when they cannot get blood for vital nourishment. If a large part of the heart is deprived of blood, the heart stops beating and the victim suffers CARDIAC ARREST!
When a victim’s heart stops beating, they require CARDIO PULMONARY RESUSCITATION (CPR) which provides vital oxygen through rescue breathing and which maintains circulation through chest compressions.
PROPER TRAINING IS REQUIRED TO PERFORM CPR, HOWEVER ANY HEART ATTACK CAN LEAD TO CARDIAC ARREST AND IT IS THEREFORE VITAL FOR FIRST AIDERS TO BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE THE EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK SO THE VICTIM CAN RECEIVE PROMPT PROFESSIONAL ATTENTION!
A heart attack victim whose heart is still beating has a much better chance of survival than a victim whose heart has stopped! Most heart attack victims who die succumb within 2 hours after having their heart attack. Many of these victims could be saved if bystanders recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and get the victim to a hospital quickly! Indeed, many victims of heart attacks think they are experiencing HEARTBURN or other minor discomfort when in fact their life is in jeopardy!
The most significant sign of a heart attack is chest pain. The victim may describe it as pressure, a feeling of tightness in the chest, aching, crushing, fullness or tightness, constricting or heavy pain. The pain may be in the center of the chest, although it is not uncommon for the pain to radiate to one or both shoulders or arms or to the neck, jaw or back.
Besides pain, victims may experience sweating, nausea or shortness of breath. Many victims deny they may have a heart attack. Others may have their condition worsened by fear of dying.
With all victims of heart attacks – and with all victims receiving first aid for any condition – it is important for the rescuer to constantly reassure the victim and keep them calm and relaxed.