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How Do I Prevent Choking on Vomit?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In situations where a person is at risk of choking on vomit, it may be advisable to put him or her into a position where the vomit can come out of the mouth instead of falling into the airway. Sometimes, however, injuries may be present, such as spinal fractures, in which case this may not be the best course of action. As well as managing the vomiting, it is important to recognize that vomiting may be an indication of serious illness that may need immediate medical attention.

A number of different medical conditions can cause a person to vomit, and become unable to control his or her movements. Heat exhaustion can provoke vomiting, as can injuries to the head or other areas of the body. As well as medical conditions, excessive alcohol or drug intake can make an individual drowsy, or cause an unconscious state, where the person is unable to wake up sufficiently to prevent choking on vomit.

A person who has an injury or illness that makes him or her likely to vomit and be unable to move his or her body to respond to the vomiting requires supervision by another person, until a medical professional can see to the patient. In situations where the person does not have any injuries, and where it is known that it is safe to do so, then the individual can be turned on his or her side. This allows vomit to fall out of the mouth and not back into the airway, where it can block incoming air and potentially kill the person.

Turning a person on his or her side for first aid is not necessary unless there is a risk of choking on vomit, or another substance like blood. The act of moving a person can also make existing injuries worse, and in the case of spinal, or head injuries, can potentially cause permanent paralysis. If the person is actually choking, however, and need to be moved, then moving the body, neck and head all at the same time can reduce the risk.

Even when the person is on his or her side, and is no longer at risk of choking on vomit, he or she may still be at risk of other complications. Vomiting can be a sign of serious medical issues, that may not be immediately apparent to the person administering the first aid. Medical attention should always be sought, in case the person experiences other issues apart from the vomiting.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon926031 — On Jan 15, 2014

Once I was really sick with food poisoning. I had a high fever so I was pretty out of it. I woke up vomiting violently, all over my clothes, bed and blankets. It was awful. My stomach hurt so bad I couldn't move properly and I started to choke. I could feel it burning my windpipe. It was horrible! Luckily my older brother came in and helped me roll over onto my side to let the vomit drain out of my mouth. Probably the most disgusting experience I have ever had.

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