Upper Airway Obstruction

Upper Airway here refers to the throat and trachea (our windpipe / “breathing tube”) ย (see Diagram — Upper Respiratory System).ย  Sudden onset of shortness of breath from tracheal obstruction is most commonly cause by choking on something.ย  It can also be due to various infections (see Sore Throat), or swelling from Anaphylaxis (acute allergy).

More gradual shortness of breath due to tracheal obstruction can develop from growing tumors, either inside the trachea or larynx (voice box), or in the neck.ย  A key sign we can hear with stethoscopes is stridor, squeaky like a wheeze but during inspiration (breathing in; true wheezes from the lungs, like in asthma, occur during expiration).ย  It can also be diagnosed by pulmonary function tests.

If someone is choking on food, perform a Heimlich maneuver if you know how.  But never do this unless the person cannot utter a single sound more than a bare squeak, or if they fall unconscious.  Never perform a Heimlich on somebody actively coughing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: