Choking in children aged 1 year or older

If your child starts coughing all of a sudden and is not ill, there's a good chance that they're choking.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or 112 immediately if:

  • your child is not conscious or is unresponsive

Ask for an ambulance.

If you talk to them and they are unable to breathe, cry, talk or cough, they may be choking.

If your child is conscious but they are not coughing effectively, you'll need to deliver first aid.

Step 1 - cough it out

If your child is coughing effectively, encourage them to cough.

If that does not work, you may need to try slap it out.

Step 2 - slap it out

Stand behind your child. Support them in a forward-leaning position.

Image of a man holding a child in a forward-leaning position and slapping their chest
Supporting the child in a forward-leaning position

Give up to 5 blows to the back between the shoulder blades.

Image of a man's hand slapping a child between the shoulder blades
Slapping the child on their back

If this does not dislodge the object, you will need to try and squeeze the object out.

Step 3 - squeeze it out

Stand or kneel behind the child.

Give 5 abdominal thrusts (this is called the Heimlich manoeuvre).

Image of a man standing behind a child and squeezing them below the chest with folded arms
Child abdominal thrusts

Clench your fist and place it between the belly button and the ribs.

Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards.

Do not apply pressure to the ribs as this may cause damage.

Immediate action required: Call 112 or 999 if:

  • your child is still choking
  • you have not already called

Step 4 - call 112 or 999

Keep doing 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts. Do this until the object pops out, the ambulance arrives or your child is unresponsive.

Important

If your child is unresponsive, you will need to begin CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation). Learn how to give CPR to your child.

The emergency phone operator will also guide you through how to give CPR.

If you see the object during PCR, remove it with your fingers. Do not place your fingers into your child's mouth if you cannot see the object.

If the object does come out, you should still get medical help afterwards. This is in case part of the object remains or your child has had an injury during the procedure.

First aid apps

The Irish Red Cross App and St John Ambulance Ireland App have free apps for your phone.

First aid training

Training in how to give basic first aid to babies and children is available.

Organisations that offer this include:

Irish Red Cross
Phone: 01 642 4600

Order of Malta Ireland
Phone: 01 643 0000

St John Ambulance Ireland
Phone: 01 668 8077

CPR training

The Irish Heart Foundation offers certified training in CPR.

CPR courses for the general public - irishheart.ie

Page last reviewed: 13 October 2022
Next review due: 13 October 2025