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How to Deal with a Choking Adult?

Updated on March 15, 2017

We sometimes find ourselves in dangerous situations and a person choking is one of them. In all the panic and commotion it can be difficult to figure out what do and the delay to help can be fatal in some instances.

When a person is choking it means their windpipe is blocked, stopping oxygen from properly reaching the lungs, which leads to brain damage and this can happen in less than 5 – 6 minutes. First aid needs to be performed as soon as possible in order to save the person’s life and below will describe what to do, if you find yourself in a similar situation.


  • Finding it difficult to breathe
  • Grabbing at the throat
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Unusual sounds while breathing or noisy breathing
  • Ineffective and weak breathing
  • Skin turning blue
  • Unconsciousness when block isn’t cleared

Proper First Aid

Start by inquiring if the person choking can speak, because if a person is trying to cough and can speak, first aid won’t be necessary, as a forceful cough can loosen whatever is stuck. So keep instructing them to cough as forcefully as possible.

If a person cannot talk and looks in very bad condition then first aid needs to be give immediately. A combination of back blows and abdominal thrusts should be performed.

Back Blows:

  1. First place yourself behind the adult and if a child, kneel.
  2. Wrap an arm around to support the body and lean the person forward until the chest is almost parallel to the ground.
  3. Begin to use the heel of your hand to deliver a strong blow between the shoulder blades of the person choking.
  4. Check if the object has come out.
  5. If not continue the same process until the object is dislodged or till the individual passes out.

Abdominal Thrusts:

  1. Begin by standing at the back of the person and then place your arms around their waist. Kneel if handling a child.
  2. Form your hand into a fist and place it above the person’s navel, just under the breastbone.
  3. Grasp your fist very tightly with you free hand.
  4. Now make a fast inward and upward thrust with the formed fist.
  5. Then check if object has been dislodged.
  6. If not keep using the same technique till you see the object come out or until the person passes out.

Combine Back Blows and Abdominal Thrusts:

  1. Start by administering five back blows.
  2. Then perform 5 abdominal trusts if you noticed no change in the first try.
  3. Keep administering 5 sets of each till the object comes out or until the patient faints.

When a Person Loses Consciousness:

  1. Lay the patient on the floor.
  2. Dial 911 or known emergency services or inform someone to do it for you.
  3. Now begin CPR, as chest compressions can assist in removing the object.
  4. If you notice the object loosely moving around, attempt to gently take it out, however if you notice it visibly stuck in the persons throat, don’t try to grab at it. As that can cause it to travel further down the windpipe.

The Don’ts

  • If you notice the person coughing pretty hard do not intervene, but be prepared to jump in if the situation worsens.
  • Never deliberately open the persons mouth in an attempt to grab the object or pull in out, especially if conscious. Just follow the steps above to dislodge the object.


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