Dealing with a choking victim

Choking can happen at any age. Babies and young children are at a high risk. Choking is due to an obstruction or constriction of a respiratory passageway or the airway. It causes difficulty in breathing and stops the flow of oxygen to the brain and lungs and result to severe damage to the brain or death in a few minutes.

Signs of choking

  • A choking person shows signs of distress such as the eyes wide open and clutching his/her throat.
  • The person looks like being gagged or retching and drools.

    A choking person shows signs of distress such as the eyes wide open and clutching his/her throat.

  • Coughing uncontrollably
  • Struggling for breath or wheezing which is a sign of a blocked airway
  • The face becomes red to blue or cyanosis which can be seen around the lips, face and fingernail beds.
  • Watery eyes
  • Panics or a distressed behavior
  • Difficulty speaking and no air movement

Causes in babies and young children

  • Children below 6 years old have teeth that not complete especially the molars which prevents them from chewing their food properly.
  • Putting small objects inside their mouths.
  • Airways of children are narrow where small objects can easily lodge and block the airways.
  • Children tend to talk or laugh while eating



  • Let the victim cough to expel the object that causes the blockage and spit it out of the mouth.


  • Perform back blows and abdominal thrusts. Stand at the back of the victim slightly on one side. Support the chest with one hand. Let him/her lean forward so that the object blocking the airway can be expelled easily and prevent it from going further down the mouth.
  • Give at least 5 blows between the shoulder blades using the heel of the hand. Check if there is no more blockage. If not yet cleared, perform at least 5 abdominal thrusts. Stand at the back of the victim. Place arms around the waist of the victim and bend them forward. Clench one fist and place above the belly button or navel. Put the other hand over the clenched fist and pull inwards and upwards. Repeat this movement for at least 5 times.
  • Put the baby face down on the lap. Support the head and the neck of the baby with the hand and give a firm back blows between the shoulder blade of the baby using the heel of the hand and checking if the object is removed after each blow.
  • If the victim’s airway is still blocked, continue performing the cycles of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrust until help arrives.
  • If the victim becomes unconscious and not breathing, remove any obstruction that can be seen inside the mouth and perform CPR with chest compression.



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