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What Should I do if an Adult is Choking?


Posted by Jo O'Donovan   |   4 May

What Should I do if an Adult is Choking?

Mild Choking

If the choking is mild encourage them to cough. The airway may be only partly blocked and in this case, the person will be able to speak, cry, cough or breath.

They will probably be able to clear the blockage themselves but encourage them to keep coughing to clear the blockage. They will then need to spit out the object if it is in their mouth. Do not use your fingers to try to clear the blockage.

If this does not work you should try back blows

Severe Choking

In this case, the person may not be able to speak, cry, breathe or cough.  You should carry out back blows

Back Blows

  • Stand behind them and slightly to one side. Support their chest with 1 hand. Lean them forward so the object blocking their airway will come out of their mouth, rather than moving further down.
  • Give up to 5 sharp blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. The heel is between the palm of your hand and your wrist.
  • Check if the blockage has cleared.
  • If not, give up to 5 abdominal thrusts.

Abdominal Thrusts

  • Stand behind the person who's choking.
  • Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward.
  • Clench 1 fist and place it right above their belly button.
  • Put the other hand on top of your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards.
  • Repeat this movement up to 5 times.

If the person's airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, get help immediately:

Call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Tell the 999 operator the person is choking.

Continue with the cycles of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until help arrives.

If they lose consciousness and aren't breathing, you should begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.


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