Anti- choking devices: what are they and do I need one? 

Have you seen anything on social media about these devices?

There are a few different brands, and each claim to ‘save lives’ through the removal of a foreign object in case of a choking incident. I won’t put any links here, but a simple internet search will give you an idea of what these things look like. 

Essentially, they are like a little plunger that is placed over the mouth. Vacuum-like pressure is then applied to the casualty’s mouth, which claims to pop out the obstruction. 

After a quick Amazon search, it becomes apparent that there is, in fact, multiple brands of anti- choking devices for purchase. I can see how something like this might sound appealing, especially when Googling things at 2am! 

But I have done some digging on your behalf, and here is a quick summary on my findings (and my thoughts):

  • As per the instructions, these products are only “safe” for use on children greater than 12 months old
  • All the (limited) research studies that I could find concluding that that they are effective are, in the main, conducted within nursing homes on elderly patients with dysphagia (aka swallowing difficulties). I have no doubt in my mind that an “anti-choking” device could helpful in these particular populations.
  • The guidelines for use state that these devices would be used only once the casualty becomes unresponsive. So this means that the delivery of our back blows and chest/ abdominal thrusts remains unchanged. I will say that again just to reiterate… first aid treatment for choking- up to 5 back blows and up to 5 chest/ abdominal thrusts- remains the gold standard of treatment.
  • Aside from cheap copies with horrible reviews, these devices retail from £80- £120. Not cheap. 
  • An incident might occur when I am away from the home, and don’t have access to this device.
  • Once the ambulance has arrived, the equipment that they have is far superior to this device. 
  • Their use as a “first aid device” is not recommended by the Resuscitation Council UK. It is, however, recommended as a “medical device” by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. 

My worry is that in case of a choking incident, parents would delay the recommended choking techniques and instead prioritise grabbing the device and bringing it to the scene. It is these moments that would be much better spent actually treating the choking incident. 

Also, let’s not forget that there is so much that parents do every day to keep their little one’s safe from choking. From storing objects safety, to preparing food appropriately and supervising eating… you guys are the best! 

Yes, there are foods/ items which are particularly dangerous. As history has shown us, the usual choking techniques might not be as effective in clearing these obstructions (I am referring to a whole grape, or a fragment of burst balloon). But rather than relying on an anti- choking device, I would prefer to know about the risk these items pose, and eliminate them from my home.  

As a mum of three and a first aid trainer, I know that the fear around choking is MASSIVE for parents. And I am sure that the marketing and concept of this device plays on that fear that we have. But I don’t want to put my faith in a piece of equipment. I don’t want all my eggs in that basket.

Instead, I choose to be confident in the life- saving skills that I have.

I choose to be confident in my understanding of what items and foods pose a higher choking risk.

I choose to back myself, rather than a device.

What are your thoughts? 

(And if you are here because you are worried about choking- you are in the right place. Replace your fears and learn the facts with my online courses.)