First aid for choking

Choking occurs when an object obstructs our ‘airway’ – the pipe that takes air from our mouth/nose to our lungs. Babes & children are the highest risk group for accidental choking, often on small household objects or food.

Any object can cause choking if it becomes lodged in our airway. Choking is life-threatening as it can prevent a person from breathing and cause them to collapse.

Often someone who is choking will be:

> Clutching their throat / chest

> Coughing, or making attempts to cough

> Go red in the face (early on), then a grey / blue colour

> Incredibly distressed

First aid for choking

If the casualty can cough – partial airway obstruction

Step 1: Encourage the casualty to cough as best they can. Encourage them to keep coughing until the object is dislodged.

Step 2: Monitor and be prepared to intervene.

If the casualty can’t cough – complete airway obstruction

Step 1: Lean the casualty forwards. Deliver five sharp blows to their back, in between the shoulder blades

Step 2: If unsuccessful, deliver five abdominal thrusts (see video below on how to perform these).

Step 3: Continue delivering cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the object is dislodged. Stop and call an ambulance after the third cycle if one hasn’t already been called.

If the object is dislodged, the casualty should still seek medical advice for a checkup.

Learn what to do if the casualty collapses – first aid for unconsciousness & first aid for a cardiac arrest.


Encourage casualty to cough. If they can’t cough, delivery cycles of 5 x back blows and 5 x abdominal thrusts.

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