Wooden dolls - one performing a chest thrust on the other

Dealing with a choking patient

Firstly, confirm if the casualty is choking by asking them if they are choking. Check for signs of choking:

Partial obstruction:

o Able to speak, cough and breathe

o Encourage coughing

o No need for physical intervention unless casualty worsens

Complete obstruction:

o Unable to speak, cough and breathe: MEDICAL EMERGENCY

Managing the Choking Casualty

Step 1: Encourage casualty to keep coughing if possible and check their mouth for obstruction Remove any obstruction if possible

Step 2: If casualty worsens (i.e. is turning blue or stops breathing or coughing) then perform 5 back blows. Whilst supporting casualty lean them forward and use the heel of your hand to give five firm blows directly between the two shoulder blades. If this works and the obstruction clears, stop immediately.

Step 3: If back blows fail then perform the Heimlich manoeuvre (chest thrust). To perform this, stand directly behind the casualty. Place both arms around the casualty, to get the correct position place your little finger at the belly button and clench your fist with one hand, place the other hand over the fist to create a tight grip. In one firm and quick motion, pull your fist inwards and upwards. Repeat this up to five times.

Step 4:

Recheck the mouth to see if obstruction has cleared. If not, call 999 for emergency help and repeat Steps 2 and 3

Continue until casualty stops choking, loses consciousness or help arrives

This video from St John Ambulance shows how to deal with the choking patient.

This video shows the same procedure for a child and this video shows what to do if a baby is choking.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Basic First Aid: How to Be an Everyday Hero

University of Glasgow