Module 4: The Respiratory System

The respiratory system

Obstructed airway

An obstructed airway is the partial or complete blockage of the upper airway (larynx and trachea) which leads to the lungs. The obstruction of the airway can be due to the lungs. The obstruction of the airway can be due to different causes including foreign bodies (foods), allergic reactions, asthma, blood, vomit and infections. An obstruction can cause minor or major breathing difficulties and in severe circumstances may cause the casualty to become unconscious and unresponsive.

A choking adult or child (Airway obstruction)

Someone who is choking will have either a mild or severe airway obstruction. The severity of the blockage will determine the difficulty in breathing.

Recognising a choking casualty

  • Grasping at the throat area
  • Difficulty in breathing and speaking

  • Redness of the face
  • Eyes enlarged and watering
  • Displaying distress

With a severe airway obstruction, the casualty may show the above signs but also the skin colour may develop a blue/grey tinge; the casualty will get progressively weaker and eventually will become unconscious.