How do I provide First Aid in a Choking Emergency?

Choking, it can be a panic stricken situation but here is some first aid information to help you stay calm and provide first aid when choking occurs.

Choking occurs when a foreign object becomes lodged in the throat or windpipe, blocking the flow of air. In adults, a piece of food often is the culprit. Young children often swallow small objects. Because choking cuts off oxygen to the brain, administer first aid as quickly as possible.

How can we tell if someone is choking?
The universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat. If the person is too young or doesn’t give the signal, look for these indications:
  • Inability to talk
  • Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
  • Inability to cough forcefully
  • Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Flared nostrils

Provide first aid to a choking infant from a sitting position, place the infant face-down in your forearm or across your upper legs. A child over 1 year old or an adult should be encouraged to bend forward.

If choking is occurring, provide the following first aid treatment:

  • Call 000 for an ambulance – this can always be cancelled if first aid is successful
  • Give 5 back blows.  Deliver five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand in an upward motion.
  • Recheck airway after each back blow for signs of the foreign material or breathing.
  • If unsuccessful give up to 5 chest thrusts (same as CPR compressions just sharper and slower). Recheck airway
  • If still unsuccessful commence CPR until the ambulance arrives.

Always use Latex Free Gloves when checking airways to reduce the chance of allergic reactions. CPR face masks can also reduce the risk of cross infection when you apply first aid.

This choking first aid instruction does not replace a quality first aid course. If your first aid certificate has expired then contact us to book you into a first aid course now. Call 1300 136 158 or book a CPR course online here.

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