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First Aid Overview

First Aid for Choking

While we all know the Heimlich maneuver is the prescribed first aid for a choking victim, if a patient is unconscious you need to take extra care. Follow these steps for administering first aid for someone who is choking.

Symptoms: Inability to breathe, speak, or cry out. If choking continues, victim becomes blue, convulsive, limp, and unconscious.

Infant, Conscious:

  1. Observe breathing difficulties. If infant is coughing forcefully, help the infant sit up, and monitor breathing.

  2. If infant can no longer cry, cough, or breathe, lay infant facedown on your forearm, with your hand on bony portion of infant's jaw to support head. Keep infant's head lower than torso and support your arm on your thigh.­

    Choking first aid
    If infant can no longer cry, cough, or breathe,
    lay the infant facedown on your
    forearm. Deliver five blows to the back
    between shoulder blades.

  3. Use heel of other hand to deliver 5 forceful back blows between infant's shoulder blades.

    choking first aid
    If infant is not responding,
    use 2 fingers to deliver
    5 chest thrusts to middle
    of breastbone just below
    level of nipples.

  4. If back blows fail to dislodge object, turn infant over: With infant still lying facedown on your forearm, lay your other forearm on infant's back. Gently turn infant over so that infant now rests faceup on your other forearm. Support infant's head with your hand, keeping head lower than torso.

  5. Use 2 fingers to deliver 5 chest thrusts to middle of breastbone just below level of nipples.

  6. Repeat steps 2-5 until object is expelled and infant starts to breathe or until infant becomes unconscious (go to Infant, Unconscious).

  7. Once infant expels object and starts to breathe, have infant checked by doctor.
Infant, Unconscious:
  1. Shout "Help," and have someone call for EMS.

  2. Place infant on a flat surface and start CPR (see CPR).

    Choking first aid
    Place an unconscious infant on a hard surface.

  3. Look inside the mouth when you open it to give breaths and remove any object, if seen.

  4. Only if object is visible, use a hooking action with your pinky to remove it.

    Choking first aid
    Look for anything lodged in the airway. Use
    only your pinky to remove it.

Child or Adult, Conscious:
  1. Ask victim, "Are you choking?" If victim can speak or is coughing or breathing, stay with victim and encourage them to keep coughing.

  2. If victim cannot speak, cough, or breathe, state you can help them, and send someone to call for EMS as you perform the Heimlich maneuver:

    choking first aid
    Begin the Heimlich
    maneuver while you
    wait for EMS.

  3. Stand behind victim, with one foot between victim's feet for balance, and wrap your arms around victim's waist.

  4. Make a fist with one hand. Place thumb side of fist against victim's stomach just above navel and well below lowest part of breastbone.
  5. Grasp your fist with your other hand.

  6. Press into victim's stomach with quick upward thrusts until object is expelled. Each thrust should be a separate attempt to get object out.

  7. Repeat thrusts until EMS arrives, object is dislodged, or victim becomes unconscious (see Child or Adult, Unconscious).

choking first aid
Continue the Heimlich
maneuver until EMS
arrives or victim can
breathe again.

Child or Adult, Unconscious:
  1. Ease victim faceup onto floor, making sure victim's head does not strike floor.

  2. Shout "Help!" Have someone call for EMS.

  3. Start CPR (see CPR).

    choking first aid
    Begin CPR if victim is not breathing.

    choking first aid
    Continue CPR until
    help arrives.

  4. Look inside the mouth when you open it to give breaths and remove any object, if seen.

choking first aid
Check to see if there
is anything in
the victim's airway
and remove it.

To learn more about first aid and emergency care, see:
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.