How To Provide First Aid To An Adult Who Is Choking

Seeing someone choking can be a very frightening experience, especially if you don't know what to do to help them.  So what causes choking and what can you do to help?

Here's an overview on how to provide first aid to an adult who is choking.

What is choking?

Choking is the term used to describe a situation where a person's airway becomes obstructed, preventing them from breathing properly.  The usual cause of choking is mistiming the swallowing of a piece of food, causing it to become stuck in the person's throat.

When the airway is only partially blocked, the person can often shift the obstruction themselves, simply by coughing.  However, if the blockage is more serious, they will require someone's help to relieve it.  If the blockage remains in place, the person will be unable to breathe and will lose consciousness.

First aid for a choking adult

If someone begins choking, follow the procedure outlined below to help them.  DO NOT attempt to push the blockage down the casualty's throat or try to fish it out; you could make the situation worse.

  1. Your first action should be to encourage the person to cough out the obstruction.  
  2. If coughing doesn't shift the blockage, place your hand under the person's upper body to support it and tell them to lean forward.  
  3. Apply up to five hard slaps between the person's shoulder blades, using the heel of your hand.  
  4. If the back slaps fail to shift the obstruction, you will need to give abdominal thrusts.  To do this, position yourself behind the person.  Link your hands together, with your lower hand held into a fist.  Position your hands between the bottom of the person's chest and their stomach.  
  5. Now pull your linked hands abruptly inwards and upwards.  
  6. If the obstruction still won't shift, call the emergency services.  
  7. While you are waiting for the emergency services to arrive, repeat the back slaps and abdominal thrusts.  
  8. If the person stops breathing, you will need to commence CPR.  
  9. If the person is breathing, but remains unresponsive, place them into the recovery position and monitor them closely.

It's a really good idea to attend a first aid training course like hltaid003 provide first aid, even if you don't work in a dangerous occupation or take part in high-risk activities.  Incidents such as choking can happen in many different circumstances, and knowing what to do could even save someone's life.  Why not look into attending an emergency first aid course in your area?