Choking occurs when a foreign object becomes lodged in the windpipe, blocking the flow of air. In adults, this is normally a piece of food; in children it can be any small object that they have put in their mouth.
The person may be clutching their hands to the throat and:
- Have difficulty breathing
- Have difficulty speaking or coughing
- Have blue lips and skin
- Lose consciousness.
What to do
For Adults and children
- Encourage the person to cough. If the person is able to cough, they should be able to clear the problem themselves.
- If the person cannot cough, breath or speak – swift action is necessary:
- Give person up to 5 sharp back blows with the heel of one hand in the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades.
- If blockage has still not cleared, you will need to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre.
- Stand behind the person and put your arms around their waist.
- Make a fist with one hand and place it between the navel (belly button) and bottom of the breastbone – grasp it with the other hand.
- Lean the person slightly forward and pull sharply into the abdomen, with a quick upwards thrust. Repeat until the obstruction is dislodged.
- If the person becomes unconscious, begin CPR.
For infants (younger than 1 year)
- Lay the child face down along your forearm.
- Thump on the middle of the back up to five times, gently but firmly, using the heel of your hand.
- Check the infant’s mouth and remove any obvious obstructions. DO NO do a finger sweep of the mouth.
If the infant is still choking:
- Turn the child onto their back and give up to 5 chest thrusts, by pushing against the infant’s breastbone using two fingers.
- If the obstruction does not clear, call for an ambulance and continue with back blows and chest thrusts until help arrives.