A foreign object that is stuck at the back of the throat may block the throat or cause muscular spasm.


Young children especially are prone to choking. A child may choke on food, or may put small objects into their mouth and cause a blockage of the airway.

If the blockage of the area airway is mild, the casualty should be able to clear it; if it is severe they will be unable to speak, cough, or breathe, and will eventually lose consciousness.


Mild obstruction

  • Casualty able to speak, cry, cough or breathe.

Severe obstruction

  • Casualty is unable to speak, cry, cough or breathe
  • Casualty will eventually become unconcious without assistance.

Treatment for adult or child


Your aims are to remove the obstruction and to arrange urgent removal to hospital if necessary.

If the obstruction is mild:

  • Encourage them to continue coughing
  • Remove any obvious obstruction from the mouth.
If the obstruction is severe:
  • Give up to five back blows
  • Check the mouth and remove any obvious obstruction.

If the obstruction is still present:

  • Give up to five abdominal thrusts
  • Check the mouth and remove any obvious obstruction.

If the obstruction does not clear after three cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts:

  • Dial 999 (or 112) for an ambulance
  • Continue until help arrives.

Treatment for infants

infant choking back blow

An infant (less than one year old) may be choking on food or a small object if they cannot cry or make any noise, they appear to have difficulty coughing or breathing, there is a purple/red/blue colour around the face and neck, or blueness to the lips.

  • Lay them face down on your thigh while supporting their head. Give the infant up to five back blows
  • Turn the infant over so they are lying on your other thigh and check their mouth for obvious obstructions (do not do a blind finger sweep).

If choking persists:

  • try up to five chest thrusts. Place two fingers on the breastbone, one finger's breadth below the nipple line, and push inwards and upwards towards the head
  • check the mouth.
infant choking front

If the obstruction has still not cleared after repeating these steps three times:

  • take the infant with you to dial 999 or 112
  • continue the cycles of back blows and chest thrusts while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Related topics

Please note:

These hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid! St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.

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