Life-saving first aid for adult who is choking

St John Ambulance.St John Ambulance.
St John Ambulance.
St John Ambulance in the East Region offers life-saving tips on dealing with an adult who is choking.

When someone is choking, their airway is partly or completely blocked, meaning they may be unable to breathe properly. They might be able to clear it by coughing, but if they can’t you will need to help them straight away.

What to look for

1. They may have difficult breathing, speaking or coughing.

2. A red puffy face.

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3. They may show signs of distress and may point to their throat, or grasp their neck.

What to do

1. If you think someone is choking, ask them ‘Are you choking?’ If they can breathe, speak or cough then they might be able to clear their own throat. If they cannot breathe, cough, or make any noise, then they need your help straight away.

2. Cough it out. Encourage them to cough and remove any obvious obstruction from their mouth.

3. Slap it out. If coughing fails to work, you need to give five sharp back blows. To do this, help them to lean forwards, supporting their upper body with one hand. With the heel of your other hand give them five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades. After each back blow, check to see if there’s anything in their mouth.

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4. Squeeze it out. If back blows fail to clear the obstruction, give five abdominal thrusts. To do this, stand behind them and put your arms around their waist. Place one hand in a clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest. With your other hand, grasp your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times. Check their mouth again, each time.

5. If the blockage has not cleared, call 999 or 112 for emergency help straight away. Repeat five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives, re-checking their mouth each time.

• If they become unresponsive at any point prepare to start adult CPR.

For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website ( ) offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice.

For more information about first aid courses call 08700 10 49 50.

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