Choking-What You Need to Know

Choking is a life-threatening emergency. Every second counts. Often the victim will grab the throat with one or both hands when choking. Unless a victim is helped, loss of consciousness and death may follow. The action to clear a blocked airway is an abdominal thrust, also called the Heimlich maneuver. Described below is the technique for a conscious choking victim who is one year of age or older. Different steps must be taken if the victim is unconscious or pregnant, or if the victim is less than one year of age. You can learn the steps for these special situations in a first aid course.



  • Inability to speak, cough or breathe
  • Very weak cough, practically no sound made
  • Grasping the throat – the universal choking sign of distress
  • Noisy or high-pitched sounds
  • Bluish lips or skin


  • Do not use this procedure if the person is able to speak or cough.
  • Do not leave a person alone who is trying to clear his or her throat or is weakly coughing.





  • Send someone to call for medical help
  • Ask “Are you choking?” If the victim only nods and can’t speak, say you are going to help.
  • Kneel or stand behind the victim, bend the victim forward, and put both arms around waist.
  • Make a fist with one hand, covering it with the other.
  • Place thumb side of the fist against the abdomen, below the victim’s breastbone, just above the navel.
  • Make an upward thrust into the abdomen, forcing the obstacle out.
  • Repeat thrusts until the object has been dislodged or victim can breathe/cough.
  • Get medical attention after the item has been dislodged even if the victim says he or she is okay.
  • If the victim becomes unconscious start CPR.

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