SAFETY: It’s the Holidays — Do You Know What To Do If Someone is Choking?

Adult and Child Choking: What should you do?


Choking occurs when a foreign object lodges in the throat or windpipe, blocking the flow of air. In adults, a piece of food (i.e. bread or meat) is often the culprit. Young children often swallow small objects (i.e. toys, coins).

Because choking cuts off the oxygen to the brain and vital organs, you will need to administer first aid as quickly as possible. Someone who is choking may clutch their throat. This is considered the universal sign for choking. They will experience the inability to speak, difficulty breathing or a forceful cough. If the object is not removed quickly the person will lose consciousness. Ask the individual “Are you choking?” If he nods yes, be prepared to help them!



When a person is choking, they are not able to get oxygen to their vital organs such as the brain, lungs and heart. Because time is of the essence, you will need to quickly provide first aid. This can be done by performing abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver).

To perform abdominal thrust on someone else:

  • Stand behind the person. Place one foot slightly in front of the other person for balance. Wrap your arms around the waist. Tip the person forward slightly. If a child is choking, kneel behind the child.
  • Make a fist with one hand. Position it slightly above the person’s navel
  • Grasp the fist with the other hand. Press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust, as if trying to lift the person up.
  • Perform between 6 to 10 abdominal thrust or until the blockage is dislodged.
  • Call for help. If you are the only rescuer, perform abdominal thrust before calling 911. If another person is available, have that person call for help and get and AED while you perform first aid.




Person Becomes Unconscious

If the object is not dislodged quickly, the person will become unconscious. You will need to clear the airway and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) beginning with chest compressions.




To perform CPR:

  • Lower the person on his or her back onto the floor, arms to the side.
  • Clear the airway. If the blockage is visible at the back of the throat, reach a finger into the mouth and sweep out the cause of the blockage. Do not try a finger sweep if you cannot see the object.
  • Begin CPR if the object remains lodged and the person does not respond after you take the above measures. Continue CPR until the person moves, speaks, blinks or someone with more advanced medical training arrives and takes over.



To prepare yourself fully for this situation, you will need to learn the proper training. The American Heart Association (AHA) offers training through certified training sites. To locate a training center near you call your nearest AHA office or 1-888 AHA-4CPR. You may also visit Type in your zip code where requested on the home page to access information on training sites near you. Remember that we learn today, to live tomorrow.


Other articles on safety

Are You Prepared to Use an Automated External Defibrillator?

5 Reasons Why You Should Take CPR Training



Jaracz Swain is the founder of Safety NET, LLC. He is a retired Firefighter/EMT of 21 years with the Louisville, KY fire department. The same passion that led him to become a firefighter, led him to develop Safety NET where he teaches the skills needed to help save lives. In his spare time, he loves to play golf and relax at the beach.

For onsite CPR and first aid training, visit the Safety NET website, their Facebook page, or call 704-493-6663.


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