Choking is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when a person’s airway becomes blocked, preventing oxygen from reaching the lungs. This can happen when a foreign object, such as a piece of food or a small toy, gets lodged in the throat or windpipe. The universal sign for choking is clutching the throat with one or both hands.


  • Food Obstructions
  • Non-Food Obstructions
  • Medical Conditions
  • Alcohol or Drug Impairment


  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Hoarseness or difficulty speaking
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

First Aid for Choking: Adult and Children

  • Stand or kneel behind the choking person and wrap your arms around their waist. Make a fist with one hand and place it right above their belly button.
  • Hold the person’s fist with one hand and use your other hand to quickly press into their abdomen and up towards their chest.
  • Keep doing sets of 5 abdominal thrusts until the object is coughed out, or until they can breathe or cough.
  • If the person becomes unconscious, call emergency services and start CPR.

Note: For pregnant women or injured individuals, give chest thrusts instead of abdominal thrusts.

First Aid for Choking: Infants

  • Position the infant face down on your forearm supporting their head and neck with your hand.
  • Deliver 5 sharp back blows between the infant’s shoulder blades.
  • If the obstruction isn’t clear, turn the infant over onto your lap facing up while supporting their head.
  • Give 5 chest compressions by placing two fingers in the center of their chest and pushing down 1/3 the depth of the chest.
  • Repeat cycles of back blows and chest thrusts until the obstruction is dislodged and they can breathe/cough.
  • If the infant is unresponsive, call 911 and start CPR immediately.