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Closed Airway

What is It?

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Someone choking or experiencing a closed airway can be sudden and shocking, yet knowing how to respond in the right situations can save a person’s life. Listed below are a few scenarios in which someone could have a closed airway and how to respond:

An allergic reaction may occur when a person’s immune system is exposed to a certain substance. The body may react through the respiratory system, nose, skin, mouth, and digestive system. In the most severe reactions, a person’s airway may close, and they’ll have trouble breathing. If someone is experiencing an allergic reaction, you should:

  • Call 911 immediately.

  • See if they have an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen.)

  • Help the person lie on their back and calm them.

  • Raise their feet about 12 inches and cover them with a blanket.

  • If they are vomiting or bleeding, lie them on their side.

  • Make sure their clothing is loose so they can breathe.


If the person is no longer breathing or moving, you may need to perform CPR. Click here to be taken to our CPR page.

Allergic Reaction

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An asthma attack is a condition in which a person’s airways become inflamed and constricted, making it difficult to breathe. People with asthma usually carry an inhaler with them, which relaxes the muscles and allows airways to expand and ease their breathing. If someone is experiencing an asthma attack you should:

  • Stay calm and keep the person calm. Panicking can cause even more difficulty breathing. Keeping yourself and the person who is experiencing the attack calm is a priority.

  • Help the person sit upright so their breathing will be unobstructed.

  • If the trigger for the asthma attack is nearby, help the person leave the area immediately. (Pollen, dust mites, mold, feathers, animal dander/fur, smoke, etc.)

  • Have the person take their inhaler and follow their emergency plan. If symptoms continue to worsen, call 911 immediately.

Asthma Attack


Choking is when an object becomes stuck in the throat or windpipe, stopping the flow of breathing. Choking cuts off oxygen to the brain, so it is crucial to apply first aid as quickly as possible. The “five-and-five” approach is recommended by the American Red Cross:


5 Back Blows:

  • Stand to the side and just behind a choking person.

  • Place one arm across the person’s chest for support. Bend them over at the waist with their upper body parallel to the ground.

  • Deliver 5 blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

  • Alternate between 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.


5 Abdominal Thrusts (Heimlich Maneuver):

  • Stand behind the person and wrap your arms around their waist. Tip the person slightly forward.

  • Make one hand into a fist and grasp it with your other hand, positioned slightly above the person’s navel.

  • Press hard and quickly into the person’s abdomen until the blockage is dislodged.

  • (Do not perform abdominal thrusts to babies under 1 year old or to pregnant women)


If you are the only person available, perform these maneuvers before dialing 911. If another person is there, have them dial 911 while you perform first aid.

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