Choking first aid - adult or child over 1 year - series

Part 1

A choking person’s airway may be completely or partially blocked. A complete blockage is an urgent medical emergency. A partial obstruction can quickly become life threatening if the person loses the ability to breathe in and out sufficiently. Without oxygen, permanent brain damage can occur in as little as 4 minutes. Rapid first aid for choking can save a life.

The universal distress signal for choking is grabbing the throat with one or both hands.

DO NOT perform first aid if the person is coughing forcefully and able to speak – a strong cough can dislodge the object on its own.

1. Ask the person:

"Are you choking?"

"Can you speak?"

2. Send someone to call 911 or your local emergency number.

Part 1

Part 2

3. Lean the person forward and give them 5 blows to the back with the heel of your hand.

4. If this does not work, stand behind the person and wrap your arms around the person’s waist.

5. Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your fist just above the person’s navel, well below the breastbone.

Part 2

Part 3

6. Grasp the fist with your hand.

7. Make 5 quick, upward and inward thrusts with your fists.

8. Alternate between 5 blows to the back and 5 thrusts to the abdomen until the object is dislodged and the person breathes or coughs on their own.

Part 3

Part 4

Performing first aid for a choking child is very similar to an adult. If the child does not clearly grab their throat other danger signs for a child and an adult include:

  • Inability to speak
  • Weak, ineffective coughing
  • Noisy breathing or high-pitched sounds while inhaling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Loss of consciousness if blockage is not cleared

1. Send someone to call 911 or your local emergency number.

2. Lean the child forward and make 5 blows to their back with the heel of your hand.

3. If this does not work, stand behind the child and wrap your arms around the child’s waist.

4. Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your fist just above the child’s navel, well below the breastbone.

Part 4

Part 5

5. Grasp the fist with your hand.

6. Make 5 quick, upward and inward thrusts with your fists.

7. Alternate betweedn 5 blows to the back and 5 thrusts to the abdomen until the object is disloged and the child breathes or coughs on their own.

Part 5

Revision

Last reviewed 9/28/2011 by A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic (7/16/2011).

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