What happens to food that goes down the wrong way?

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Question from Dean Reader

Food can either go the right way down the oesophagus (food pipe) and into the stomach, or the wrong way, blocking the trachea (windpipe). If this happens, it triggers a rapid cough reflex; the lungs expel their air to try and force the food back up the way it came. Hitting someone on their back, between the shoulder blades, can also help to dislodge stuck food. If this fails, first aiders will often put their arms around someone’s abdomen and pull in and up below the ribs; this is known as the Heimlich manoeuvre. It works by raising the pressure in the chest, forcing the food back out

Answered by Laura Mears for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 101.

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