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Choking is the result of the lodgement of a foreign object in the casualty’s airway. In some instances, the object lodges at the entry to the airway (partial obstruction), but does not enter the airway itself. This will cause the casualty to start coughing which is the body’s way of trying to expel the object out.

If the object is firmly lodged in the airway (complete obstruction), coughing at least keeps it high in the windpipe, though it will not necessarily expel it.

Signs and Symptoms 

  • Persistent cough 
  • Inability to breathe, speak, cry or cough 
  • Clutching at the throat 
  • Anxiety, restlessness 
  • Collapse and unconsciousness

First aid management

  • If partial blockage – encourage the casualty to keep coughing 
  • If complete blockage – call for medical assistance urgently 
  • Position the casualty – adults on their side, children heads lower than their body 
  • Deliver up to five sharp back blows between the shoulder blades, and clear any obstructions that may have come out. 
  • If back blows are unsuccessful perform five chest thrusts ( the same as if delivering CPR chest compressions). 
  • If the casualty has stopped breathing commence CPR.

Do Not ...

  • Apply pressure below the ribs 
  • Use abdominal thrusts on infants 
  • Try to remove an obstruction by putting your fingers in the mouth of an infant

What should you do?

We all respond to emergencies in different ways.

Whether trained or untrained, some of us are afraid we will do the wrong thing and make the situation worse.

If you are unsure about what to do, call for an ambulance.

The worst thing to do is to do nothing.