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First Aid: Choking

Call 911 if the victim loses consciousness.

1. Woman holding hands to throat, looking distressed. 2. Man standing behind woman with arms around her waist. Inset shows his fist next to her upper abdomen and his other hand flattened and ready to cover his fist. 3. Man standing behind woman with arms around her waist and fist at her upper abdomen, with other hand flat on fist. Arrow shows him pressing in and up with his fist. Blockage is being expelled from woman's mouth.

Woman bending over the back of a chair to perform choking self-rescue.

Step 1. Identify choking

  • Ask the victim if he or she is choking. If the person can't speak, say that you will help.

  • Don't slap the victim on the back. This may force the object lower into the airway.

Step 2. Grasp from behind

  • Move behind the victim. Slide your palms under his or her arms, bringing your hands together in front of the victim's body.

  • Make a fist with one hand, placing the flat surface of the thumb and first finger above the belt line.

  • Note: If pregnancy or extreme overweight makes this impossible, give thrusts inward against the middle of the victim's breastbone.

Step 3. Thrust in and up

  • Cover your fist with the other hand, keeping your elbows away from your body.

  • Pull in and up quickly, using hard thrusts to force air from the victim's lungs. This pops out the blockage.

  • Repeat thrusts until the victim coughs or speaks.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Perez, Eric, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2018
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