Information - Choking

Background information for Key Stage 3 and parents.

Thre are many factors that can affect breathing and one of the most common is choking. If you have ever experienced choking, you will know it is a very scary experience when you cannot breathe.

Choking is when a foreign object gets stuck in the throat, blocking persons ability to breathe. In adults, this is commonly caused by food, but children will put anything small in their mouths including pen tops and toys.

Choking can be mild or severe. When an object completely blocks the airway it puts the person's life at risk as oxygen is not entering the lungs. It is important to act quickly with choking.


Mild choking

We have all probably had mild choking, where a foreign object has tickled the back of the throat and we have:

  • been able to speak
  • been able to cough to move the object
  • been frightened it will go down further and stop us breathing
Severe choking

When our throat is completely blocked we cannot move any air and there we:

  • cannot speak
  • cannot cough
  • cannot breathe
  • will be clutching our throats
  • will be panicking
  • will turn pale, grey/blue skin in later stages
  • will eventually go unresponsive


It is important to stay calm and reassure your casualty throughout.

  1. Encourage them to cough
  2. If the choking is server and they cannot speak or cough carryout back blows.
    Ask your casualty to lean forward and place one hand across their chest to support them.
    Give up to five back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
    Stop the back blows if the object clears and the casualty can breathe.
  3. If the back blows are not successful, begin abdominal thrusts.
    Stand behind your casualty with them still leaning forward.
    Place your arms around the casualty. With one hand, create a fist and place it between the casualties navel and bottom of their breastbone. Grasp your fist with the other hand.
    Pull in and up sharply up to five times.
    Stop the abdominal thrusts if the object clears and the casualty can breathe.
  4. If the back blows are not successful and the throat is still blocked, repeat steps 2 and 3 until the foreign object clears.

If the object does not clear after the first cycle of steps 2 and 3, call the emergency services requesting an ambulance.

Unresponsive casualty

If the casualty goes unresponsive, do not hold them up, but let them go down to the floor. If you try to hold them up to continue abdominal thrusts, you will hurt your back.

Once the casualty is on the floor unresponsive and with a foreign object blocking the airway, begin resuscitation. By carrying out resuscitation, you will compress the chest, forcing air out of the lungs which will hopefully force the object out of
the casualties throat. Once the blockage is cleared and the casualty starts breathing, stop resuscitation. For information on resuscitation see our session 'Information - Resuscitation'.