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First Aid 

Choking

Choking occurs when any kind of foreign object blocks an airway and is often caused by a piece of food in adults or a small object in children. Clutching the hands at the throat is the universal sign for choking. If a person is choking, encourage them to continue coughing and to spit the object out. Choking may cut off oxygen to the brain, so action should be taken immediately to remove the object from the choking person’s airway. Signs and symptoms of choking include:

  • Difficulty breathing, noisy breathing, or squeaky breathing

  • Inability to talk

  • Cough

  • Blue lips, skin, or nails

  • Flushed skin

  • Loss of consciousness

To help an adult or child over the age of 1 who is choking, take the following steps:

  1. Have the person bend over at the waist with his or her body parallel to the ground and give 5 firm back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

  2. Stand behind the person and place your fist just above the person’s navel. Grab your fist with your other hand and firmly thrust upward 5 times. 

  3. Repeat back blows and abdominal thrusts until the object is dislodged.

  4. If the individual becomes unconscious and ceases to breathe or have a pulse, call for emergency medical assistance and begin CPR and rescue breaths immediately.

To help an infant under the age of one who is choking, take the following steps:

  1. Lay the infant face down along your forearm and give 5 gentle but firm back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

  2. Turn the infant on its back and push on the infant’s breast bone between the nipples with 2 fingers only. Give the infant 5 chest thrusts. 

  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until the object is dislodged. 

  4. If the infant becomes unconscious and has no pulse or signs of breathing, call for emergency medical assistance and begin infant CPR and rescue breathing immediately.

Abdominal Thrusts

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Infant Choking

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Resources

Austin, M., Crawford, R., & Armstrong, V. J. (2014). First aid manual. (G. M. Piazza, Ed.) (5th ed.). DK Publishing. https://kuiyem.ku.edu.tr/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/American-College-of-Emergency-Physicians-ACEP-First-Aid-Manual.pdf.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, October 14). Choking: First aid. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-choking/basics/art-20056637.  

National Health Service. (2018, August 21). What should I do if someone is choking? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/accidents-first-aid-and-treatments/what-should-i-do-if-someone-is-choking/.