Information for Patients
Food or small objects can cause choking if they get caught in your throat and block your airway. This keeps oxygen from getting to your lungs and brain. If your brain goes without oxygen for more than four minutes, you could have brain damage or die.
Young children are at an especially high risk of choking. They can choke on foods like hot dogs, nuts and grapes, and on small objects like toy pieces and coins. Keep hazards out of their reach and supervise them when they eat.
When someone is choking, quick action can be lifesaving. Learn how to do back blows, the Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts), and CPR.
If you've ever gotten a splinter or had sand in your eye, you've had experience with a foreign body. A foreign body is something that is stuck inside you but isn't supposed to be there. You may inhale or swallow a foreign body, or you may get one from an injury to almost any part of your body. Foreign bodies are more common in small children, who sometimes stick things in their mouths, ears, and noses.
Some foreign bodies, like a small splinter, do not cause serious harm. Inhaled or swallowed foreign bodies may cause choking or bowel obstruction and may require medical care.