First aid for choking

Choking occurs when an object obstructs our ‘airway’ – the pipe that takes air from our mouth/nose to our lungs. Babies & children are the highest risk group for accidental choking, often on small household objects or food.First aid for choking

Any object can cause choking if it becomes lodged in our airway. Choking is life-threatening as it can stop a person breathing which can lead to a cardiac arrest.

Signs and symptoms of choking

The following are common signs and symptoms of choking:

> Clutching at the throat / chest

> Coughing or making attempts to cough

> Turning red in the face (early on), then a grey / blue colour

> Look incredibly distressed

First aid treatment for choking

If the casualty can cough – partial airway obstruction

Step 1: Encourage the casualty to cough as best they can. Encourage them to keep coughing until the object is dislodged.

Step 2: Monitor and be prepared to intervene.

If the casualty can’t cough – complete airway obstruction

Step 1: Lean the casualty forwards. Deliver five sharp blows to their back, in between the shoulder blades

Step 2: If unsuccessful, deliver five abdominal thrusts (see video below on how to perform these).

Step 3: Continue delivering cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the object is dislodged. Stop and call an ambulance after the third cycle if one hasn’t already been called.

If the object is dislodged, the casualty should still seek medical advice for a checkup especially if someone has performed abdominal thrusts as these can cause internal injuries


John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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