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There is a very common mistake that is usually made when caring for a child or a person who has been left unconscious: the tongue is searched to prevent the victim from swallowing it, inserting hands, fingers or foreign bodies such as pens or spoons. This practice is totally discouraged by all international life support guidelines. The tongue is not swallowed!
False beliefs about how to help an unconscious adult or child fly unstoppable, social networks contribute to misinformation in these cases, but one thing is clear: the tongue should not be pulled out.
In order to answer the question of why the tongue is not swallowed and why we should not look for it with our hands, it is important to answer these questions:
What happens to the tongue when the child falls unconscious? When there is no muscle tone because the child is unconscious, the main problem is in the tongue, but not because it can swallow it, but because when lying down without any force, the weight of the base of the tongue falls backwards preventing the passage of air into the lungs.
Why should we not stick our tongues out at the child? The simple act of lifting the chin helps collapsed structures retract by traction and re-allow air to pass into the lungs. It is the forehead-chin maneuver, indicated in any life support manual.
What can happen if we take the tongue or extract it?
- We can obstruct the passage of air with our own hand or fingers that block the routes and act as a stopper.
- We can tear off or break pieces of teeth that can also pass into the airway, preventing the passage of air.
- We can impact the muscle mass of the tongue at the end of the pharynx with our fingers.
- We can prevent secretions from coming out (vomiting or bleeding).
- If the child convulses and we have a finger inside, we can lose it due to the bite. We can also choke the child with our own blood and the rest of the limb.
- Elements that help to stick out the tongue such as a pen, stick or spoons act as a stopper and increase the risk of tooth breakage or even the object itself, further complicating the situation.
What to do if the child is unconscious?Approach safely, confidently and calmly, check if the child is breathing by performing the forehead-chin maneuver. If he breathes, place him in a lateral safety position to protect the airway from vomiting.
If it has fallen due to a strong cervical trauma, do not move it, fix the head with your hands in a neutral position and if it breathes badly, pull from the chin upwards and immediately ask for help. You can also start a heart massage if the situation requires it.
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