What is choking?

Choking occurs when the airways get blocked as a result of inhaling something accidentally. Food, sweets and small objects such as Lego and tops of pens are common causes of choking.


Symptoms of choking include:

  • the casualty being unable to cough
  • grasping at the throat
  • Showing distress / panic
  • reddening of the face
  • pale skin and cyanosis in later stages
  • unconsciousness


  • Shout for help
  • First encourage the casualty to cough
  • Standing behind the casualty, and bending them slightly forward, give up to 5 firm blows between the shoulder blades.
  • Check if the obstruction has been dislodged between blows.
  • If this fails to dislodge the object move onto to giving Abdominal Thrusts (formerly known as The Heimlich Manueovre).
    • Place your arms around the casualty’s waist.
    • Make a fist and place your fist between their belly button and the bottom of the ribs
    • Grasp your fist with the other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards. This generates a forced cough.
    • Repeat this up to 5 times. I this fails to dislodge the object, return to back blows and give up to 5 more.
  • Continue the sequence of back blows and abdominal thrusts until either the object is removed or the casualty collapses.
  • If the casualty becomes unconscious, dial 999 or 112 and commence CPR immediately
  • Sketch of back blows and abdominal thrusts while treating a choking casualty

    Please note: Do NOT attempt abdominal thrusts on infants under the age of 1. Please use chest thrusts instead. To perform chest thrusts place two fingers in the centre of the infants chest on the bone (sternum) and push down sharply.

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