Made of circular muscles that contract and relax, the esophagus is a narrow tube that allows the passage of food to travel from the mouth down the throat. However, food can get stuck if it is not chewed properly or large chunks are swallowed whole. It is possible to dislodge obstructions via mechanical methods or utilizing the body's natural swallowing or gag reflex. It is important to learn basic life support skills such as CPR in case the situation turns into a life-threatening emergency.
Drink plenty of fluids. The pressure of the fluid and the swallowing reflex can help move the food down the esophagus and remove the obstruction. Avoid drinking sodas, caffeinated drinks and sugary beverages or juices because the increase in pressure due to the carbonated fluid and blocked food can increase the risk of projectile vomiting and choking.
Perform the Heimlich maneuver. This is a common procedure, applying several forceful abdominal thrusts that force air out of the lungs via the diaphragm. Place one hand around the victim’s waist and form a fist with the thumb placed above the belly button. Place the other hand over the the fist and perform several upward thrusts while simultaneously squeezing the abdomen tightly. This should cause a cough reflex and expel the food.
Assess the situation and determine whether it is an emergency. If the victim is in severe respiratory distress, immediately call 911 or take the victim to the nearest emergency room. Food blocking the esophagus might require surgical intervention or an endoscopic procedure to remove the foreign body.
Perform the gag reflex. Place a finger to the back of the throat and touch the soft palate.This will initiate the gag reflex and cause the throat to contract, helping to move the food blockage upwards and out of the mouth.
Get certified in basic life support from your local certified American Heart Association or American Red Cross professionals. Treat babies and young children immediately if a foreign body or food is blocking the esophagus. Cut food into bite-size pieces and chew slowly to avoid blockages and choking.