Choking in an Adult, Child or Infant

Choking in an Adult, Child or Infant Image

Choking in an adult, child or infant is a situation where an object or food particle gets stuck in a person’s airways, preventing the person from breathing normally. Choking in adult is caused by food but children often swallow objects. Choking needs immediate attention as it hinders oxygen from getting to the brain.

If there is mild blockage of the airway, the person should be able to clear it by coughing. Airway blockage should be seen as life-threatening as within a short time the brain is being starved of oxygen, brain damage can occur.

According to Wikipedia, over 4,000 choking related deaths are recorded every year in the US and choking is the fourth most common cause of unintentional injury-related deaths in the US in 2011. Choking is common in children under 2 years and in adults over 75 years but immediate first aid can help save the life of someone that is choking.

In this article, I will be discussing how to help a choking adult, as well as a pregnant woman and a large adult, and also how to help a choking child or infant.


Choking in an adult, child or infant

The general choking sign is holding the neck with one or both hands. But where you don’t see this sign, look out for the following clues;

  • Difficulty in speaking and breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Distressed and anxious
  • Loss of consciousness

How to help a choking Adult or Child


Choking in an Adult, Child or Infant Image

Abdominal Thrusts are recommended for an adult that has a severe airway block. These abdominal thrusts or Heimlich maneuver pushes air from the lungs and help remove any object blocking the airway.

To carry out abdominal thrust:

  • Stand firmly behind the person, with him slightly bending forward, wrap your arms around his  waist. If its a child, kneel down behind the child.
  • With one hand , make a fist and position it a bit above the person’s navel
  • Grasp the fist with your other hand and give brisk upward thrusts into the abdomen as if trying to lift the person up.
  • Continue giving thrust until the object is forced out.
  • As you are doing this, another person if available can call your local emergency number.

How to help a pregnant women or Large adult that is choking 

Choking in an Adult, Child or Infant Image


  • Chest thrusts are given instead of abdominal thrusts. Position your hands at the base of the breastbone, just a little higher than with a normal abdominal thrust. Give a quick thrust by pushing hard on the chest.
  • Continue until the object is forced out

How to help a chocking Infant

Choking in an Adult, Child or Infant Image


Only Back slaps and chest thrusts are used when an infant has a severe airway block. Giving thrusts can cause serious harm to the infant’s abdomen. 

  • First assume a sitting position, while supporting the infant’s head and jaw, hold the infant facedown on your forearm, the head region slightly lower than the trunk.
  • Using the heel of your other hand, give up to 5 gentle but firm back slaps between the infant’s shoulder blades.
  • If the airway is still not cleared, position the infant faceup on your forearm supporting the head in such a way that the head is lower than the trunk.
  • Using 2 fingers of your other hand, give up to 5 chest thrusts at the centre of the infant’s breastbone. Allow the chest to rise again in between each thrust.
  • Continue with 5 back slaps and 5 chest thrust until the infant can breathe, cry or cough.

How to help a choking adult, child or infant who becomes unresponsive

A person becomes unresponsive when an object blocking the airway cannot be removed. In this case , Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is required. Giving both chest compressions and rescue breathes are very important. You can read  more on What is CPR in First Aid article on my site.

For an Adult;

  • Make sure the person is lying  on his or her back, arms to the side
  • Apply CPR starting with compressions while you get someone if available to call your local emergency number.
  • Give rescue breathes after each set of 30 compressions.
  • Each time you open the mouth to give breathe, look for the object at the  back of the throat, take it out if you see any. Do not use your hand to remove objects that are not seen because you can  push it further back in the airway.
  • Repeat the 30 compressions after 2 breathes until the person moves or advanced help arrives

For an infant(less than 1 year)

  • Make sure the infant is lying on his back on a flat surface. 
  • call your local emergency number or get someone if available to call
  • Give CPR, 5 sets of 30 compressions and 2 breaths. Use only 2 fingers of one hand to give compressions to an infant at the rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. 
  • Continue CPR and also look in the mouth for any object after each set of compressions  until the infant moves or cries or advanced help arrives.

Have you ever helped someone that is choking? Learn the necessary skills and  save a life.

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Paschal Achunine
Paschal Achunine
Paschal Achunine Is the founder of Health Emergency Initiative(HEI) for Indigent patients. HEI stands as next -of-kin to indigent patients in public hospitals and also for road accident victims.

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