Acute upper airway obstruction

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Acute upper airway obstruction is defined as a blockage in the upper airway. If there is blockage in the airway, it prevents the body from acquiring enough oxygen.

Acute upper airway obstruction
The reduced flow of oxygen can result to brain damage and even a heart attack in just minutes.

The reduced flow of oxygen can result to brain damage and even a heart attack in just minutes. A blockage in the upper airway is considered dangerous. If an individual is suspected with the condition, seek prompt medical care right away.

What are the causes?

The usual causes of airway obstruction typically include:

In some cases, the airway can end up obstructed if the individual breathes in food or any foreign object.

Emergency care for acute upper airway obstruction

The treatment for an acute upper airway obstruction is based on the cause. Remember that immediate medical care is vital.


Due to its potentially dangerous nature, anaphylaxis requires prompt treatment. If this reaction is suspected, call for emergency assistance.

The treatment includes oxygen along with antihistamines and anti-inflammatory drugs to assist with breathing and lessen the swelling.

If an individual is at risk, he/she is prescribed an auto-injector epinephrine.


The doctor will ensure that the individual can breathe. This is done by providing oxygen via a mask or a breathing tube. If due to an infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics.


Take note that croup can be managed at home. Inhaling moist air with a humidifier and increasing the intake of water can hasten the recovery. Corticosteroids are given if the symptoms linger or worsen to lessen the inflammation.

Foreign object

In case a child swallowed a foreign object and could not speak, cough or breathe, call for emergency assistance.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on acute upper airway obstruction is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and how it is treated, register for a first aid and CPR course with Red Deer First Aid.

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