Choking First Aid Easy As ABC

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Choking is one of those frightening and unpredictable occurrences that can turn an ordinary everyday meal or fun social event into a sudden, life-threatening emergency.

It’s also quite common in TV and movies to see someone attempting to give first aid to a choking victim with an outdated and often comical technique… Mrs Doubtfire anyone?

If they CAN COUGH:

This means a partial obstruction or the airway and that the person can still breath. Reassure them and encourage continued coughing until the object is dislodged. Only once it’s dislodged should you offer water to drink if they wish.

If they CANNOT COUGH or breath, or coughing is ineffective follow steps ABC:


Have someone call 000 immediately. You might be able to dislodge the object easily, but if you don’t, it’s best to have an ambulance on its way sooner than later.


Lean the person forward while seated or standing. Hold their shoulder for support and give up to 5 firms back blows, striking the upper back between the shoulder blades with the heel of your palm. Check after each blow to see whether it was effective before continuing.

A small child or infant can be placed with chest over your knee, and an infant’s head ideally positioned lower than their body.


If back blows are unsuccessful, lay the person on the floor facing up and give up to 5 sharp thrusts in the centre of the chest / lower half of the sternum. Use overlapped hands much like a CPR compression.

Alternate between 5 black blows and 5 chest thrusts until the airway is clear.

If the person becomes unconscious, roll on their side to sweep any loose matter from the mouth, then start CPR and apply an AED if available.

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