Choking – First Aid

What is choking?

Choking is where a foreign object becomes stuck in the throat, causing a blockage. If the blockage is mild, the casualty should be able to clear it themselves. If the casualty is unable to speak or make any noise, then the blockage is severe and the person will eventually lose consciousness.

How do I recognise choking?

  • Possible sudden airway problem whilst eating
  • Unable to speak
  • Unable to breathe
  • May be clutching their neck
  • Sometimes, people who are choking may head to the bathroom to avoid embarrassment.

What do I do if someone is choking?

If the blockage is mild and the casualty is breathing, encourage them to cough to help clear the obstruction.

If the blockage is severe and the casualty cannot speak or stops coughing or breathing, get consent and begin back blows –

  • Support their upper body with one arm and lean the casualty forward.
  • Give up to five sharp blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your other hand.
  • Check whether the obstruction has cleared after each blow. Stop if the obstruction clears.

What if the obstruction doesn’t clear?

After five back blows, move on to abdominal thrusts:

  • Stand behind the casualty (with your head slightly to the side) and put both of your arms around the upper abdomen.
  • With the casualty still leaning forwards, clench one fist and place it between the naval and the bottom of the breastbone.
  • Grasp your fist firmly with the other hand, pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times, checking to see if the obstruction has cleared after each thrust.

If the obstruction still hasn’t cleared after repeating five back blows and five abdominal thrusts a total of three times each, call 999/112 for emergency help. Continue until help arrives or the casualty loses consciousness, in which case move on to dealing with an unconscious, non breathing casualty.


  • Any person receiving ANY abdominal thrusts, must seek medical attention.
  • Abdominal thrusts are NOT appropriate for pregnant women. Chest thrusts should be performed instead.

This isn’t a substitute for first aid training. If you’d like to be able to deal with a variety of first aid issues with confidence, book a first aid course in Newcastle, the North East or wherever you need us! Get in touch for more information.