How to help someone who is choking

Choking is a common cause of accidental death and often preventable. Objects such as food, sweets or small objects can easily become lodged in the airway if they are accidentally ‘breathed in’ rather than swallowed.

Signs and symptoms of choking

  • The patient is unable to speak or cough
  • Grasping or pointing to the throat
  • Distressed look on the face

First aid treatment of choking

Firstly, encourage the patient to cough. If the choking is only mild, this will clear the obstruction and the patient should be able to speak to you.

If the obstruction is not cleared:

Give back blows

  • Shout for help, but don’t leave the patient yet.
  • Bend the casualty forwards so the head is lower than the chest. For a smaller child, you can place them over your knee to do this.
  • Give up to 5 firm blows between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand. Check between blows and stop if you clear the obstruction.

If the obstruction is still not cleared: 

Give abdominal thrusts

Stand behind the casualty (or kneel behind a small child). Place both your arms around their waist. Make a fist with one hand and place it just above the belly button (below the ribs) with your thumb inwards.

Grasp this fist with your other hand, then pull sharply inwards and upwards. Do this up to 5 times. Check between thrusts and stop if you clear the obstruction.



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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