What Should I Do If Someone Is Choking?
We often get asked, “What should I do if someone is choking?” In this article, we explain the best action to take.
Choking is when your airway gets blocked and you can’t breathe properly. It can be a scary experience both for the person involved and those around them. Most of the time the person affected is able to clear the blockage themselves, their reflex action will be to cough and this is often enough to resolve the issue. However, this does not always work and in these instances, the person will need help. The method of assisting someone used to be known as the Heimlich manoeuvre, but is now known as abdominal thrusts.
Using The Heimlich Manoeuvre
When someone chokes, the airway can either be partly or fully blocked. If coughing does not relieve the blockage, the person will become unresponsive. The good news is that if they do become unresponsive, their throat muscles could relax and open the airway enough for you to give rescue breaths. Therefore in extreme cases be prepared to give rescue breaths and chest compressions.
The advice below can be used on adults, children and animals! Please do not use this technique on a choking baby. The second technique given in this article should be used for infants.
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Procedure for Adults and Children
STEP 1 – COUGH IT OUT
Firstly, encourage the person to cough to try and clear the obstruction. Support their upper body with one hand and help them lean forward.
STEP 2 – SLAP IT OUT
If coughing doesn’t do the trick. Help the person to bend forward and using the heel of your hand, give them up to five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades. After that check their mouth to see if anything is there if it is get it out.
STEP 3 – SQUEEZE IT OUT
If the back blows do not work, give up to five abdominal thrusts. Stand behind them and link your hands between their tummy button and the bottom of their chest, with your lower hand clenched in a fist. Pull sharply inwards and upwards.
STEP 4 – CALL FOR HELP
If they are still choking, call 999 or 112 for medical help. Once you have called for help, continue steps 2 and 3, back blows and abdominal thrusts, until what’s in there has cleared, help arrives or they become unresponsive.
If they become unresponsive at any stage, open their airway and check their breathing. If they are not breathing, start chest compressions and rescue breaths (CPR) to try to release whatever’s stuck in there.
Procedure for Babies
STEP 1 – SLAP IT OUT
Firstly, lay the baby face down on your thigh and support their head. Give up to five back blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
STEP 2 – CHECK THEIR MOUTH
Lay the baby on your thigh face up. Carefully pick out any obvious objects with your fingertips.
STEP 3 – SQUEEZE IT OUT
Using two fingers, give up to five downward chest thrusts. Check the mouth. If the obstruction hasn’t cleared, call 999/112 for emergency help.
STEP 4 – CALL 999 OR 112
Take the baby with you and call 999 or 112. Repeat the above steps 1 to 3 until help arrives. If they become unresponsive at any stage, open their airway and check their breathing. If they’re not breathing, start CPR.
If you work in an environment where there is a higher risk of somebody choking, attending the QA Level 3 Award in First Aid at Work would give you the knowledge and skills to best deal with this situation.