Emergency advice

Choking child:

  1. Cough it out.
  2. Slap it out - 5 back blows.
  3. Squeeze it out - 5 abdominal thrusts.
  4. Check their mouth.
  5. Call 999 and repeat the actions.

What is choking?

When a child is choking, their airway is partly or completely blocked, meaning that they may be unable to breathe properly. They might be able to clear it by coughing, but if they can't, you will need to help them straight away.

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • difficulty breathing, speaking or coughing
  • signs of distress and they may point to their throat or grasp their neck.

What to do

  1. Child choking first aid - adult asks child 'Are you choking?'

    If you think a child is choking, ask them ‘Are you choking?'.

    If they can breathe, speak, or cough then they might be able to clear their own throat. If they cannot breathe, cough, or make any noise, then they need your help straight away.

  2. Child choking first aid - child coughs it out

    Cough it out. Encourage them to cough and remove any obvious obstruction from their mouth.

  3. Child choking first aid - give five back blows

    If coughing fails to work, you need to give five sharp back blows. To do this, help them to lean forwards, supporting their upper body with one hand. With the heel of your other hand give them five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades.

    After each back blow, check their mouth and pick out any obvious obstruction.

    • Do not sweep the mouth as this could push the object further down the throat.
  4. Child choking first aid - give five abdominal thrusts

    Squeeze it out. If back blows fail to clear the obstruction, give five abdominal thrusts. To do this, stand behind them and put your arms around the child's waist. Place one hand in a clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest. With your other hand, grasp your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times.

    Check their mouth again, after every thrust.

  5. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    If the blockage has not cleared, call 999 or 112 for emergency help straight away. Repeat five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives, rechecking their mouth between every blow or thrust.

    • If they become unresponsive at any point assess using Primary Survey DRABC and start child CPR if required.
    • All children who have received abdominal thrusts should be seen in hospital, even if the obstruction has cleared. 

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Related first aid advice

Choking baby

As you start weaning your baby and they begin eating solid foods or playing with small objects, they may be at risk of choking. Find out what to look for and what to do.

Choking adult

When someone is choking, they may be unable to breathe properly. Find out what to look for and what to do.

How to do CPR on a child

If a child is unresponsive and not breathing normally you will need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and perform child CPR straight away. Learn what to do.

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