Resuscitation Council (UK)

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)



Choking is an uncommon but potentially treatable cause of accidental death. As most choking events are associated with eating, they are commonly witnessed. As victims are initially conscious and responsive, early interventions can be life-saving.

Learn what to do if someone choking by playing Lifesaver.

Both adults and children may be victims of choking. The first essential is to recognise what is happening. The context may provide important clues. For example, choking is common at mealtimes, or child may have been playing with small objects.

The victim may go silent and hold or point to their throat. If the obstruction to the airway is only partial, the victim may be able to speak, cough and breathe. Encourage them to cough and clear the obstruction, but keep a close eye to make certain that the situation does not get worse.

If the airway is severely obstructed, the victim will not be able to talk, but may be able to respond by nodding or shaking their head. Coughing will be ineffective, breathing will be difficult, noisy or, at worst, impossible. Without treatment the victim will ultimately lose consciousness.

Severe airways obstruction is treated by measures that aim to increase the pressure inside the chest and thereby expel the obstruction.

Watch The Chokeables from St John Ambulance

It may be difficult to carry out abdominal thrusts in a choking victim who is very obese. If you are unable to encircle the victim's abdomen, the BLS/AED Subcommittee of the Resuscitation Council (UK) recommends that you stand behind the victim, as for abdominal thrusts, but position your hands somewhat higher, over the lower end of the sternum (breastbone). Pull hard into the chest with quick thrusts.

January 2014
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