Treatment for a Choking Adult or Child (Primary Care)

Watch this video to see the first aid treatment for someone who is choking:

Now click on each icon to recap the first aid treatment for a choking adult or child

1 – Encourage the casualty to cough

  • If the choking is mild this should clear the obstruction and the casualty will be able to speak. remove any obvious obstruction from the mouth. DO NOT poke blindly for an obstruction at the back of the mouth as this may push the object down further.
  • Encourage them to carry on coughing and don’t leave them
  • If coughing is not effective, eg if it’s silent or they can’t breathe in properly, shout for help immediately

2 – Give up to 5 back blows

If the obstruction is not cleared:

  • Lean the casualty forwards
  • Give up to 5 firm back blows between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand
  • Check between each blow and stop if you clear the obstruction

3 – Give up to 5 to abdominal thrusts

If the obstruction is still not cleared:

  • Kneel or stand behind the casualty
  • Place both your arms around their waist
  • Make a fist with one hand and place it just above the belly button (below the ribs) with your thumb inwards
  • Grasp this fist with the other hand
  • Thrust sharply inwards and upwards
  • Try this up to 5 times, checking between thrusts to see if you’ve cleared the obstruction – if so, stop!

4 – Repeat the cycle of back blows and abdominal thrusts

If the obstruction is not cleared:

  • If the treatment is not working, shout for help
  • Ask someone to call 999/112 for emergency help
  • Do not interrupt the cycle of back blows and abdominal thrusts whilst the casualty is still conscious

IMPORTANT: If the casualty becomes unconscious, start CPR


Should I give ventilations if there is a fully blocked airway?
Yes. One possibility is that the blockage will be forced into one of the bronchi leaving the other lung free to receive air.
The patient may relax once unconscious allowing air to flow around the blockage.
Giving ventilations will not worsen the situation and may have a small chance of success.