What to Do if Someone is Choking

Health & Safety Tips

Jun 10, 2022


Wondering what to do if someone is choking? While many choking situations take care of themselves without the need for intervention, some cases require urgent help from others to resolve. 

The emergency medical professionals from Complete Care are here to educate you on what to do if someone is choking. When you recognize the emergency, have someone call 911, start with back blows (striking the person in between the shoulder blades) then try the Heimlich maneuver. If all else fails, begin performing CPR until medical help arrives.

How to recognize choking emergencies

It can be difficult to recognize when a person is choking and is in need of help. If their airway is completely obstructed, they may be unable to make any noise at all to alert those around them of the emergency. There are other signs of choking emergencies to look out for, including:

  • Clutching of the throat area
  • Inappropriate or uncharacteristic silence 
  • Paling or bluing skin
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Erratic movement of the arms
  • Loud and labored breathing

If you notice that someone is having trouble breathing in, do not hesitate to call 911 or take them to an emergency center for emergency treatment for choking. There often isn’t time to seek emergency treatment while a person’s airway is completely blocked, so if someone is choking, what do you do at that moment?

How to help someone who is choking

What is the first thing you should do if someone is choking? Knowing how to help someone choking could save someone’s life, and is an easy procedure to learn and remember.

How to help a baby who is choking

First, it’s very important to understand what steps not to do when dealing with a choking infant. DO NOT do the Heimlich maneuver on a child, and DO NOT try to remove the object with your fingers as you run the risk of moving it further into the airway.

Sit down and put the infant face down on your forearm, which should be resting in your lap, with the baby’s head supported in your hand.

  1. Perform back blows as you would on an adult, but use a few fingers instead of a closed fist. Five of these should be done before moving on.
  2. If back blows do not dislodge the blockage, flip the baby over face up, still supporting the head in your hand. Using two fingers in the center of their breastbone perform five quick 1 – 1.5 inch chest compressions, allowing the breastbone to rise again after each compression.
  3. Have someone call 911 while you perform infant CPR.

Newborns often eat foreign objects that are more difficult to remove than food. Improperly performing a choking maneuver on a baby can not only hurt them but can be ineffective at removing the blockage. 

How to help an adult who is choking

The steps to helping an adult who is choking are the same as anyone older than infancy. The children’s Heimlich maneuver is essentially the Heimlich maneuver, with the need to adjust the pressure and placement of the thrusts depending on the size of the child.

  1. Have someone call 911. If you are alone with the person who is choking, perform steps two and three before calling an ambulance.
  2. First, perform back blows. Using a closed fist for an adult, and with force appropriate to the size of the person choking, strike them five times between the shoulder blades.
  3. If back blows do not clear the blockage, try the Heimlich maneuver. Stand behind the person choking and wrap your arms around their abdomen. Place a fist in between their belly button and their sternum and use your other hand to pull sharply inwards and upwards. Perform this motion 5 times before continuing.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until help arrives.

What to do if you’re choking

If you are choking, call 911 immediately and try to alert anyone who may be nearby. If nobody is nearby. Try pressing the back of a chair or otherwise fixed object into your upper abdomen to try and expel the object.

What to do if the person still isn’t breathing

What do you do if someone is still choking after receiving back blows and abdominal thrusts? You would ideally learn CPR in a formal capacity, from a certification such as the one The American Red Cross offers, but should at the very least read through these steps for how to perform CPR for adults. Similar to what to do when someone goes into anaphylactic shock, you are trying to prevent further damage while you wait for help to arrive. 

  1. Place the heel of your hand in the center of the chest, with your other hand on top of it.
  2. Position yourself directly about the person, so that your arms are completely straight and angled down.
  3. Push down rapidly and forcefully, by about two inches, using your whole body weight. You’re aiming for a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute. 

You should only administer rescue breaths if you’ve had formal CPR training, otherwise continue chest compressions until help arrives. 

Keep reading: What to do when someone is fainting

Come to Complete Care for emergency treatment for choking

Emergencies happen all of the time, which means that you should prepare yourself for what to do if someone is choking. Consider taking a class in CPR, or at the very least watching a video tutorial for how to do the Heimlich maneuver. Believe us, you’ll be glad that you did. 

If you find yourself near one of our many emergency rooms in Texas or Colorado Springs, stop in, and we will take Complete Care of you. We’re here for questions, emergencies, and everything in between.

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