How Do I Give First Aid for Choking?

H. Lo

There are two methods you can use to give first aid for choking. These methods are back blows and abdominal thrusts. In general, you can alternate between giving a person five back blows and five abdominal thrusts, or you can skip the back blows. In the event that these methods of first aid for choking do not work, you might need to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), especially if the person stops breathing. Methods of first aid for choking are performed in a slightly different manner among children, adults and pregnant women, as well as on yourself.

The Heimlich maneuver that is used for infants is different than the one used for adults.
The Heimlich maneuver that is used for infants is different than the one used for adults.

To give back blows, you will deliver blows between the choking person’s shoulder blades using the heel of your hand. In infants, this method is different given the young age of the child. First, you need to sit down and place your forearm on your thigh. Then, you rest the infant face-down along your forearm and gently thump the child’s back. Of course, if you are the one who is choking, you will not be able to deliver back blows to yourself.

Back blows and abdominal thrusts can be used to help a person who is choking.
Back blows and abdominal thrusts can be used to help a person who is choking.

Abdominal thrusts are also known as the Heimlich maneuver. To perform abdominal thrusts, you put your arms around the choking person’s waist and form a fist with one hand. Angle your fist so that your thumb faces in towards his or her body, and place the fist above the person’s navel. With the person slightly tilted forward, close your other hand around your fist and quickly thrust in and up, five times. Perform the procedure as if you are trying to lift up the person.

For children over 1 year of age, you can perform abdominal thrusts but you should not do it hard enough so that you lift them up. For infants under 1 year of age, this procedure is quite different as it is not really a hard thrust but a firm chest compression. Like with back blows, you need to be sitting down with your forearm placed on your thigh. This time, the infant is laying face-up on your forearm. With the infant’s head lower than the body, you take two fingers and perform quick compressions in the middle of the child’s breastbone.

You should not perform an abdominal thrust on a pregnant woman in the same area as you would for other adults. Instead, when a pregnant woman is choking, you should place your fist higher, at the base of her breastbone, and then perform the procedure. You can also perform abdominal thrusts on yourself if there is no one around to help you when you are choking. To do this, you will need to position your fist above your navel, bend over a firm surface, such as a counter-top, and then thrust.

These methods of first aid for choking might or might not work, depending on a person’s specific condition. Sometimes, you will need to clear the person’s airway by sweeping his or her mouth for the blockage. While doing this, you need to be careful about not pushing the blockage further down the person’s throat. If need be, you can perform CPR on the person if he or she stops breathing. Performing CPR might help dislodge the blockage.

Performing CPR may dislodge the blockage in a person's throat.
Performing CPR may dislodge the blockage in a person's throat.

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Discussion Comments

anon926030

My teenage daughter choked on a piece of chewing gum once. Her face turned bright red, then blue, then she passed out. She had a pulse, but stopped breathing completely. I reached my hand down her throat and was able to dislodge the gum with my fingers. Even once it was out, she still was unconscious and not breathing. So, I pinched her nostrils closed and started giving her mouth-to-mouth. After about 12 breaths she started breathing and soon woke. It was a very frightening experience for both of us.

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