Choking occurs when a person’s airways suddenly become partly or fully blocked, making breathing difficult or impossible. Here is how you can help if someone starts choking.
First aid if someone starts choking mildly
What to do if someone starts choking depends on how bad the choking is. In cases of mild choking, airways are usually only partly blocked. In such a case, the affected individual can typically breathe, cough, cry or speak and should be able to clear the blockage by coughing. It is therefore recommended to encourage adults or children over the age of 12 months (see how to help babies younger than 12 months here) to:
Keep on coughing to clear the blockage
Spit the object out (if it is in the mouth)
It is important not to put your fingers into a choking person’s mouth, as they may otherwise accidentally bite you. If coughing does not dislodge the blockage, you may need to administer back blows. You can learn how to do this in our post ‘What is the procedure to help someone who is choking?‘.
Assisting a person who starts choking severely
When a person is choking severely, they are usually unable to breathe, speak, cough or cry. Unless help is provided quickly, severe choking may lead to unconsciousness and eventually death. The first response to severe choking is to administer back blows. If this does not help, it may become necessary to perform abdominal thrusts, which are also often referred to as the Heimlich Manoeuvre (see how to perform this manoeuvre here). Abdominal thrusts can be repeated up to five times. If the blockage cannot be cleared, it is vital to dial 999 and request immediate assistance for a choking person.
Important: It is imperative never to perform abdominal thrusts on children under the age of 12 months or pregnant women.
When to get medical assistance
As there is a risk of this life-saving treatment causing potentially serious injuries, it is necessary for the treated individual to be examined by an A&E doctor or their GP afterwards. Urgent medical assistance may also be required if the individual has a persistent cough following their choking episode or continues to feel like they have something stuck in the throat.
Claiming for compensation
Depending on what caused someone to choke, they could be entitled to personal injury compensation. If you choked on an unexpected object in food or drinks at a restaurant, for instance, give us, Accident Advice Helpline, a call on 0800 689 0500 (from a UK landline) or 0333 500 0993 (from your mobile) now to learn more.
Date Published: April 18, 2017
Author: Accident Advice