The effects of choking can have both mental and physical consequences for people. The physical effects remain short-term, but severe choking incidents can leave long-term health effects. The mental effects can be problematic for anyone who has had a choking incident, although these effects usually dissipate over time. Every choking incident should receive medical attention.
Short-Term Effects of Choking
The short-term effects of choking depend on each situation. Minor choking incidents may not leave prolonged effects, while more severe cases can lead to long-lasting problems. According to Harvard Health’s article, Choking alert: Strategies for safe swallowing, the short-term effects of choking include the following.
Choking leads to difficulty breathing, which can persist after the blockage resolves. Choking involving a foreign object can damage tissue, leaving the trachea (windpipe) inflamed and constricted. Choking involving asthma or another condition can also leave the trachea inflamed, making it difficult to breathe.
The lack of air caused by choking leads to dizziness, which worsens the longer the brain does not receive oxygen.
A lack of air over a long period of time can lead to unconsciousness. Once it sets in, severe medical conditions can follow.
Choking can eventually lead to death if the brain and organs do not receive oxygen for an extended period of time. Removing the blockage and beginning CPR can prevent death or delay serious conditions until advanced medical help arrives.
Choking often causes coughing, a physical response by the body to try to expel the blockage through force. Coughing against a hard object, particularly one with sharp edges, can leave scratches and punctures in the tissue of the trachea or larynx. This damage may heal over time but will remain uncomfortable in the short-term.
If the blockage rests in the larynx, coughing or trying to talk can strain the muscles of the larynx. This will make it difficult or uncomfortable to talk for a short period and will resolve itself in time.
Wheezing is a symptom in which a blockage in the trachea lets some air through. The sound that the trachea makes when trying to force air out or in creates the wheezing sound. Wheezing refers to a partial blockage and can still result in other choking-related problems.
Fear of Choking
People who survive a choking incident may have a lasting fear of choking again. This often resolves itself in a short period of time but may become a lasting concern that could develop into a more serious condition.
Mental and Physical Stress
Choking creates mental and physical stress for people that survive it as well as their loved ones.
If someone is choking, seek medical treatment immediately. Early intervention can prevent serious complications and conditions related to choking.
Long-Term Effects of Choking
Choking can cause long-term effects for anyone that survives. The long-term effects vary for each person based on the type of choking they experienced. If a person chokes on a hard object, tissue damage may cause a long-term problem. The edges of the object can cut or puncture the tissue of the trachea, which can take a long time to heal.
If the choking incident left the person deprived of oxygen for too long, they may experience lasting brain damage. Lasting brain damage may require therapy to recover from.
Choking Risk Factors
Anyone can choke, but some populations live at a higher risk. Seniors are especially vulnerable to the effects of choking when it comes to age-related changes to eating and swallowing. Some of the choking risk factors include the following.
Dysphagia is a condition that makes it hard to swallow. People with Dysphagia may get something caught in their throat and choke.
Respiratory System Conditions
Medical conditions that change how people breathe can increase their risk of choking.
Asthma is a condition that causes inflammation in the respiratory system, reducing the size of the airway and increasing the chances of choking.
COPD is a collection of respiratory conditions that develop over a long time. They affect how people breathe and can make it difficult to swallow.
Pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid outside the lungs that can crush the lungs if the fluid does not drain. It reduces a person’s lung capacity, reducing their ability to breathe.
In any case, respiratory problems should receive medical attention. Seek medical treatment immediately.