Safety and first aid

First aid for a choking adult or child over 1

Signs and symptoms

Sign and symptoms may include:

  • clutching the throat
  • coughing, wheezing, gagging
  • difficulty breathing, speaking and swallowing
  • making a whistling or ‘crowing’ noise or no sound at all
  • face, neck lips, ears, fingernails turning blue.

Managing a choking adult or child

  • Encourage adult or child to relax and cough to remove the object.
  • Call triple zero (000) if coughing does not remove the blockage, or if patient is an infant.
  • Bend the patient well forward and give 5 back blows:
    • use the heel of your hand between the shoulder blades – check if obstruction is relieved after each back blow.
  • If unsuccessful, give 5 chest thrusts:
    • place one hand in the middle of the patient's back for support and heel of other hand in the CPR compression position and give 5 chest thrusts, slower but sharper than compressions
    • check if obstruction is relieved after each chest thrust.
  • If blockage does not clear continue alternating 5 back blows with 5 chest thrusts until medical aid arrives.

If the patient becomes unconscious:

  • call triple zero (000) for an ambulance
  • remove visible obstruction from mouth
  • commence CPR.

Where to get help

  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance.

This information provided by

Logo: St John Ambulance Australia


St John Ambulance Australia

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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