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Mild choking: encourage them to cough

If the airway is only partly blocked, the person will usually be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe.

They will usually be able to clear the blockage themselves.

To help with mild choking in an adult or child over one-year-old:

  • Encourage them to keep coughing to try to clear the blockage
  • Ask them to try to spit out the object if it is in their mouth
  • Don’t put your fingers in their mouth as they may bite you

If coughing does not work, start back blows.

Severe choking: back blows and abdominal thrusts

Where choking is severe, the person won’t be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. Without help, they will eventually become unconscious.

To carry out a back blow on an adult or child over one-year-old:

  • Stand behind them and slightly to one side. Support their chest with one hand. Lean them forward so the object blocking their airway will come out of their mouth, rather than moving further down.
  • Give up to five 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 not, give up to five abdominal thrusts.

Abdominal thrusts

Don’t give abdominal thrusts to babies under one-year-old or pregnant women.

To carry out an abdominal thrust:

  • Stand behind the person who is choking.
  • Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward.
  • Clench one 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 five times.

If the person’s airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Continue with the cycles of five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives.

(Source: NHS)

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