Choking — how to help an adult, baby or child if they choke

When someone is choking it is frightening and often difficult to know the best way to help. If they are coughing and spluttering, give them time to cough the obstruction up themselves. If the person is red in the face, struggling to breath and unable to make a sound — their airway is completely blocked and they need urgent help fast!

People choke on all sorts of things — but anything that is small enough to fit through a toilet roll is a potential choking hazard. Small objects are generally easier to dislodge than things such as balloons that stick more firmly in the airway. When chopping up food be careful to avoid slicing them into perfect circles, instead go for small pieces or batons which, if someone does choke on them may still allow some air to reach their lungs.

If an adult is choking:

· Always check first to see if they are able to cough and encourage them to do so as often they are able to clear the blockage themselves.

If they are unable to cough:

· Bend them forward supporting them on their chest with the other hand and use the flat of your hand to give a sharp back blow between the shoulder blades. Check to see if the blockage has cleared before giving another blow. If the blockage hasn’t cleared after five blows, try abdominal thrusts/Heimlich manoeuvre:

If the back blows haven’t worked; get an ambulance on the way

Abdominal Thrusts:

· Stand behind them and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under to dislodge the obstruction. You are using a J-shaped motion to pull up and under their rib cage. Perform abdominal thrusts up to 5 times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared. Anyone who has received abdominal thrusts must be seen by a doctor.
 · If the person is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and alternate five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point they become unconscious, commence CPR.

What to do when a child is choking

· Babies and young children can choke on anything that can fit through a loo roll. To prevent choking: keep small objects out of reach, cut up food into very small pieces and supervise children while they’re eating, especially if they are under five years old.

Signs of choking:

Unable to speak or cry, clutching their throat, struggling to breath

How to help a choking child over 1 year

· If a child shows signs of choking, stay calm and ask them to cough to help remove the object.

If they are unable to cough:

Bend the child forward, supporting them on their chest with one hand
 · with the other hand; use the flat of your hand to give a sharp back blow between the shoulder blades.
 · Check to see if the blockage has cleared before giving another blow — give up to 5 back blows checking each time to see if the blockage has cleared

If the back blows haven’t helped get an ambulance on the way

· If the blockage hasn’t cleared after five blows, the next stage is to do an abdominal thrust/Heimlich manoeuvre:
 · Stand behind the child and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under in a J shaped motion, to dislodge the obstruction. Perform abdominal thrusts up to 5 times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared. Anyone who has received abdominal thrusts must be seen by a doctor.

· If the child is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and alternate five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point the child becomes unconscious, commence CPR.

What to do when a baby is choking

Babies under 1 year

· First look in the baby’s mouth and if there is something obvious in the mouth, remove it with finger tips.

DO NOT put your fingers down a baby or child’s throat, or finger sweep the mouth, as this can make matters worse by pushing the obstruction further down or by causing swelling.

· Lay the baby downwards on your forearm, across your legs, supporting them under their chin and using the flat of your hand, give a firm back blow between the shoulder blades.

· Give up to five back blows and check between each blow to see if the blockage has cleared. If the obstruction has not come out — get an ambulance on the way

· If the blockage hasn’t cleared, lay the baby on their back, place two fingers in the centre of the chest just below the nipple line and give up to five chest thrusts. (the same place as you push when doing chest compressions on a baby)
 Warning: Never do an abdominal thrusts on a baby under a year as you could cause damage. · Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each chest thrust.

· If baby is still choking, call 999/112 and continue alternate five back blows and five chest thrusts until emergency help arrives.

Prompt and appropriate First Aid can make a real difference and knowing these vital skills will empower you with confidence to help when it really matters. Please visit www.onlinefirstaid.com and www.firstaidforlife.com where we have FREE resources and courses you are welcome to sign up to.


Originally published at firstaidforlife.org.uk on October 19, 2015.

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