Fact Checked

Choking involves blockage of the airway by food or other foreign object that clogs the pathway, thus disrupting normal breathing.

This is considered as a life-threatening emergency that necessitates prompt first aid. It involves the Heimlich maneuver and CPR if the individual is not breathing.

What are the indications?

Generally, the signs of choking include the following:

  • Individual clutches his/her throat by holding the throat with one or two hands. This is the universal mark of choking.
  • Gagging
  • Difficulty breathing and talking
  • Noisy breathing
  • Attempting to cough but unable to
  • Bluish discoloration of the lips, face and skin
  • Fainting
  • Unconsciousness
    If the individual is not breathing or there is no movement, perform CPR.
  • Panicky

Infants might have a weak cry, noisy breathing, difficulty breathing and changes in the skin color.

Management of choking

The initial step is to ask someone to call for emergency assistance right away. While waiting for the emergency team to arrive, perform the following:

  • Perform 5 back blows between the shoulder blades using the heel of the hand.
  • If trained, you can perform 5 abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver)
  • If the individual is not breathing or there is no movement, perform CPR.

Heimlich maneuver

  • Stand behind the individual and wrap around the waist right above the navel with the hand forming a fist while the other hand grasps the fist.
  • The individual should tip slightly forward and press the abdomen hard with an upward thrust as if attempting to lift the individual upwards. This must be repeated 5 times.
  • Continue to perform 5 blows and 5 abdominal thrusts alternatively until the foreign object responsible for the blockage is expelled.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on choking is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly manage the condition, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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