What to do if someone’s choking

2017-09-01 09:29
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images

PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Choking can happen anytime, anywhere and easily cause someone’s death. Emergency personnel at Crisis on Call share these tips for what to do.

What are the signs someone’s in serious trouble?

When a person’s throat is only partially obstructed, they’ll still be able to cough and wheeze, which means air is getting through. But when someone can’t breathe at all, they’ll:

  • Grab at their throat
  • Look anxious and shocked.
  • Take on a bluish skin tone.
  • Eventually lose consciousness.


If the person can still speak, cough or cry, encourage them to keep doing that. Try to keep them as calm as possible.

If the person is unable to speak, cough or cry, follow these steps:

  • Call an ambulance.
  • Tell them to open their mouth. If you can see the object, remove it with your fingers.
  • If the object can’t be seen, don’t put your fingers in the person’s mouth – you might accidentally push the object further down their throat.
  • Don’t thump a person older than one year on the back – it can cause the object to get even more stuck.
  • If you know how to, perform the Heimlich manoeuvre.

Heimlich manoeuvre for babies younger than one:

  • Lay the baby face-down on your fore-arm and hit them between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand.
  • Turn the baby over and press down five times on their chest with the palm of your hand or your finger. Draw a mental line between the baby’s nipples and press just below the line.
  • Look inside the mouth to see if the object has been loosened. If it’s lying in the mouth, take it out with your fingers.
  • If not, repeat the process until the obstruction has been loosened and is in the baby’s mouth.

Heimlich manoeuvre for people older than one year:

  • Stand behind the person and wrap your arms around them, clasping your hands in front of them, just below their sternum (chest bone). If the person is large or heavily pregnant, move your arms higher until you’re able to clasp your hands.
  • Make a fist with one hand.
  • Gripping your fist with your other hand, pull inward and upward fast and hard four times.
  • Repeat the procedure until the airways are opened – usually about six to 10 times.
  • If the person loses consciousness, lay them on their back and squat over them.
  • Hit them hard with your clasped fists just below the sternum, in an upward direction. Keeps your elbows locked.
  • Turn their head sideways and look in their mouth to see if the object has been dislodged.
  • Repeat the procedure until the airways are open.

Heimlich manoeuvre on yourself:

  1. Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against your upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel.
  2. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into your upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust.
  3. Repeat until object is expelled.
  4. Alternatively, you can lean over a fixed horizontal object (a table edge, chair or railing) and press your upper abdomen against the edge to produce a quick upward thrust. Repeat until the object is expelled.

Someone who lost consciousness at any time because of choking must always be examined by a doctor.

  • Read more on:    choking

    Inside News24

    Traffic Alerts
    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


    Create Profile

    Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

    Please provide a username for your profile page:

    This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.