Choking occurs when an object gets stuck in our airway – the tube that takes air from our mouth & nose to our lungs.

Step 1: Identify if the person is choking

You may see the person looking distressed and clutching at their neck/head. They may be red in the face initially.

If they can cough: Lean them forwards and encourage them to keep coughing in order to dislodge the object

If they can’t cough: If coughing is ineffective or they are unable to cough then procede to step 2

Step 2: Deliver five back blows

Lean the person forwards and deliver five back blows using the heel of your hand. Aim to hit the person in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades. Remember to support their front and warn them about what you are doing!

If this does not work then procede to step 3

Step 3: Deliver five abdominal thrusts

Stand behind the person. Make a fist with one hand and place this above their belly button. Using your other hand for strength, pull sharply inwards and upwards. The aim of this manoeuvre is to force air out of the lungs to dislodge the object. Repeat five times.

Warning: Abdominal thrusts can be dangerous so should only be performed in an emergency situation. The casualty must go to hospital if you have to perform this technique

 Step 4: Repeat this cycle of five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives

If the casualty collapses, you should treat them as being unconscious. See our pages on unconsciousness to learn how to perform CPR or place them in the recovery position.

Choking first aid video