Adult choking: First aid management

Adult choking first aid care


Choking is when your airway gets blocked and you can’t breathe properly. When adult choking occurs, the airway can either be partly or fully blocked. If it’s a mild blockage, they should be able to clear it themselves by coughing. If it’s a severe blockage, they won’t be able to cough so without anyone’s help they’ll become unresponsive.

But if they do become unresponsive, their throat muscles could relax and open the airway enough for you to give rescue breaths ‒ be prepared to give rescue breaths and chest compressions.



Adult choking ‒ First aid care

If the person is able to cough forcefully, the person should keep coughing. If the adult choking can’t talk, cry or laugh forcefully, follow the tips below.

Step 1: Give Back Blows

Encourage them to cough. If this doesn’t clear the obstruction, support their upper body with one hand and help them lean forward. Give up to 5 blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. Check their mouth to see if there’s anything in there and, if there is, get them to pick it out.



Use heel of hand between the shoulder blades
Give back blows

If Person Is Still Choking, Do Thrusts

If the person is not pregnant or too obese, do abdominal thrusts:

  • Stand behind the person, place one foot slightly in front of the other for balance and wrap your arms around the waist.
  • Place your clenched fist just above the person’s navel. Grab your fist with your other hand.
  • Quickly pull inward and upward as if trying to lift the person up.
  • Perform a total of 5 abdominal thrusts.
  • If the blockage is still not dislodged, continue cycles of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until the object is coughed up or the person starts to breathe or cough.
  • Take the object out of his mouth only if you can see it. Never do a finger sweep unless you can see the object in the person’s mouth.
High abdominal thrusts
Perform abdominal thrusts

Call for help

If the adult is still choking, call the emergency services for medical help. Once you’ve called, continue the back blows and abdominal thrusts until what’s in there has cleared, help arrives or they become unresponsive.

If they become unresponsive at any stage, open their airway and check their breathing. If they’re not breathing, start chest compression’s and rescue breaths (CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to try to release whatever’s stuck in there.



About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At felclinic.com we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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