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  • Hazel Hawkes

Choking: How to Identify and Treat.

Thousands of people die each year from things that could have easily been prevented with some first aid knowledge. This includes hundreds that choke to death - a blocked airway can kill someone in three to four minutes where it can take nearly 10 minutes for an ambulance to reach you.



With the holiday season coming up where everyone will eat too much and gifts are exchanged we want you to take with those that have a certain "Contains Small Parts" label on. Quite often these types of toys or gadgets are given to young children who tend to put everything in their mouth which can cause problems if they try to swallow them. Here is some information on what to do if someone (of any age) is choking.





How to spot if someone is choking:

  • they're struggling to breathe

  • they're clutching at their throat or gesturing that they can't breathe

  • their lips and skin are going blue - this is because they're suffocating so they're not getting enough oxygen. This may not be an immediate symptom as it takes time for the blood to become less oxygenated so you need to be aware of the other signals

  • they've passed out - because they aren't getting enough oxygen to their brain they may pass out. If they have passed out because they choked on something you need to unblock their airway.

Unblocking the airway

The procedure for unblocking an infant's airway is different to the one for unblocking an adult's airway.


For an infant or child:

If you can see the object they are choking on remove it. If not, Do Not poke blindly as this could cause it to lodge further down their throat.

  • If they are coughing loudly, encourage them to continue doing so to try and dislodge the item and do not leave them.

  • If their coughing is ineffective - silent or they cannot breathe - shout for help immediately

If the child is still conscious but they are not coughing or their coughing is ineffective, use back blows.

Back blows for an infant under 1 year old:

  • Sit down and lay the baby face down along your thighs, supporting their head with your hand.

  • Give up to 5 sharp back blows with the heel of 1 hand in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades.

Back blows for a child over 1 year:

  • Lay a small child face down on your lap as you would a baby.

  • If this isn't possible, support the child in a forward-leaning position and give 5 back blows from behind.

If back blows don't relieve the choking and the baby or child is still conscious, give chest thrusts to infants under 1 year old or abdominal thrusts to children over 1 year old.


Chest thrusts:

  • Lay the baby face up along the length of your thighs.

  • Find the breastbone and place 2 fingers in the middle.

  • Give 5 sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

Abdominal thrusts for a child:

  • Stand or kneel behind the child. Place your arms under the child's arms and around their upper abdomen.

  • Clench your fist and place it between the navel and ribs.

  • Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards.

  • Repeat up to 5 times.

  • Make sure you don't apply pressure to the lower rib-cage, as this may cause damage.

If the child is still choking after chest or abdominal thrusts, call 999 and keep trying back blows and thrusts until help arrives. If they become unconscious or are found unconscious put them on a flat surface and call for help, call 999 and put them on speaker so your hands are free to help the child. Open the child's mouth and if you can see the object, gently remove it.

Do Not leave the child at any point

For an adult:

  • Mild choking (a partially blocked airway): Encourage them to cough and spit out whatever is blocking the way. Do Not put your fingers in their mouth as they may accidentally bite you.

  • Severe choking (fully blocked so they cannot speak, breathe...): Back blows and abdominal thrusts.

Back blows:

  • Stand behind them and slightly to one side. Support their chest with 1 hand. Lean them forward so the object blocking their airway will come out of their mouth, rather than moving further down.

  • Give up to 5 sharp blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

  • Check if the blockage has cleared.

  • If not, give up to 5 abdominal thrusts.

Abdominal Thrusts:

Do Not give abdominal thrusts to infants or pregnant women

  • Stand behind the person who's choking.

  • Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward.

  • Clench 1 fist and place it right above their belly button.

  • Put the other hand on top of your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards.

  • Repeat this movement up to 5 times.

If the person is still choking after this call 999, ask for an ambulance and tell the operator that the person is choking. If they lose consciousness and aren't breathing you should begin CPR

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