When someone is choking, they may be unable to breathe
properly. Find out what to look for and what to do.
What is choking?
When someone is choking, their airway is partly or completely
blocked, meaning 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
- • difficulty breathing, speaking or coughing
- • a red puffy face
- • signs of distress, and they may point to their throat or
grasp their neck.
Watch our video - how to help someone who is choking
What to do
1. If you think someone 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
2. Cough it out. Encourage them to cough and
remove any obvious obstruction from their mouth.
3. Slap it out. 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 to see if there’s anything in their
4. 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 their
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, each
5. 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, re-checking their mouth
- • If they become unresponsive at any point, prepare to start