When a person inhales food or objects causing a blockage of the airway.


Signs & Symptoms:

  • Distressed expression
  • Reddening face, lips becoming blue tinged
  • Not able to breath
  • Grasping or pointing at throat
  • Unable to speak or cough
  • Unconsciousness is rapid


Treatment (adults and children above 1 year):

  1. Encourage the casualty to cough (they may not be able to).
  2. Lean the casualty forward, or put children over your knee so that the head is lower - allow gravity to help you.
  3. Deliver 5 back blows; hit between the shoulder blades with the heel of the hand up to 5 times. If the obstruction has not cleared carry on with step 5:
  4. Administer 5 abdominal thrusts; stand behind the casualty and put your arms around their middle (a reverse hug). Make a fist with one hand then place it between the belly button and the ribs. Cup the fist with the other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards to try and expel air out of the lungs. Check between thrusts to see if the obstruction has cleared.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 while the casualty is conscious until the obstruction clears.
  6. If the casualty becomes unconscious, commence CPR and dial 999/112.

WARNING: After abdominal thrusts, the casualty MUST go to hospital as an injury can be caused by this technique.


Babies (under 1 years):

  • Follow steps 2 and 3 above not using the heal of the hand.
  • DO NOT give abdominal thrusts. Exchange these for chest thrusts; turn the baby over onto its back with the head lower than the chest. Place two fingers in the middle of the chest and give up to 5 sharp thrusts. Check after 5 sharp thrusts to see if the obstruction has cleared. Repeat these steps and call 999/112
  • If the baby becomes unconscious start CPR.



It is important that chest thrusts and abdominal thrusts are not practiced on people as they can cause trauma.


You might also be interested in our Resuscitation and CPR course under the specialist first aid courses section of our website.


First Response. Training for life. Training to save a life.

First Response Resuscitation & First Aid Training Ltd

9 Counterpool Road, Kingswood, Bristol BS15 8DQ

Tel: 0117 949 0944



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