September 2004 Edition
Healthwise: Chew on This

Chew on This

Choking is a medical emergency that has immediate life-threatening consequences. There's no time to waste and you can't afford to wait for emergency medical assistance. When a guest is choking you must take action immediately!

A choking victim has less than four minutes to be rescued and without help during this crucial period of time they can suffer from brain damage or death. It's a tragedy that no restaurateur can live with.

Preventing choking is difficult as the combination of people talking, eating, laughing and often hurrying to eat, can easily lead to a customer who swallows food that has not been chewed thoroughly.

Most often, when a guest suffers from partially obstructed airways you will observe them coughing violently or sputtering. In this case the obstruction is usually passed and the guest does not require assistance, though you should ensure they have a glass of water available immediately following and remain close at hand until you are sure they have recovered fully.

However, if a guest begins choking and cannot cough to disclose the obstruction it may be necessary to take action by performing the Heimlich Manoeuvre.

Developed in the 1970's by Dr. Henry Heimlich, the Heimlich Manoeuvre has saved over 50,000 people across North America since it was introduced.

The Heimlich Manoeuvre can be performed on adults and children over two years of age, and it can also be self-administered. The Heimlich Manoeuvre is fairly simple. Standing behind the victim you should wrap your arms around their waist. Then place your fist with the thumb side in, against the victim's abdomen slightly above the navel and below the rib cage. Grab the fist tightly with the other hand and pull your fist abruptly upwards and inwards. This will increase the airway pressure behind the obstructing object and force it out of the windpipe. The movement can be repeated as necessary.

Following the removal of the obstruction from the windpipe, it is a good idea to seek medical assistance as a victim can suffer internal damage from the abdominal thrust.

Simple techniques such as the Heimlich Manoeuvre save lives every day, and for you and your staff life saving skills such as this could be the difference between life and death for a staff member or one of your customers.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, almost anyone can learn to perform this life saving technique. Basic emergency first aid courses are fun and interactive, and take as little as a 6 to 8 hours to complete.

Take the time to learn the Heimlich Manoeuvre, it could save your life, the life of a friend, family, co-worker or guest. ยจ

For life saving emergency medical training contact your local Canadian Red Cross.

Do Your Part

  • When serving pre-cut, bite-sized food, ensure that the food is in fact bite-sized. If no utensils accompany the food, guests will assume that the food is pre-cut to an edible size.
  • Do not add decorative garnishes that are inedible. Guests may think that the garnish is a food and if they consume it they may choke.
  • Avoid garnishing children's plates with anything inedible or hard.
  • Seniors and children suffer from choking more often than other people. Pay special attention to your Seniors menu and ensure that food is bite-sized, or serve food that is obviously not bite-sized and provide a knife and fork so that guests know that the food is expected to be cut before eaten.