How to help a person choking?
There are a few principles that will help you save someone from choking. These are as follows:
Cough it out
If the airway is only partly blocked, the person will usually be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe.
If they can’t clear the blockage themselves, then follow the instructions below.
To help with mild choking in an adult or child over 1 year old:
- encourage them to keep coughing to try to clear the blockage
- ask them to try to spit out the object if it’s in their mouth
- don’t put your fingers in their mouth to help them as they may bite you accidentally
If coughing doesn’t work, start back blows
Whack it out
Where choking is severe, the person won’t be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. Without assistance from you, they’ll eventually become unconscious.
To carry out a back blow on an adult or child over 1 year old:
- 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. The heel is between the palm of your hand and your wrist.
- Check if the blockage has cleared.
If this doesn’t work then you need to squeeze it out:
Squeeze it out
Don’t give abdominal thrusts to babies under 1 year old or pregnant women.
To carry out an abdominal thrust:
- 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’s airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, you need to get help immediately:
- Call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Tell the 999 operator the person is choking.
- Continue with the cycles of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until help arrives.
If they lose consciousness and aren’t breathing, you should begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions until help arrives.