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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.

Call 999 or 112 immediately if your child is not conscious or is unresponsive.

Ask older children, 'Are you choking? Can you cough, speak or breathe?' If they are unable to cough, speak, breathe, cry, 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, simply encourage them to cough.

If that doesn't 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.

choking-first-aid-support-child
Support the child

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

choking-first-aid-slap-on-back
Slap on 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 commonly known as the Heimlich manoeuvre).

choking-first-aid-child-chest-thrust
Child abdominal thrusts

Clench your fist and place it between the naval and the ribs.

Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards (scooping motion).

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

If your child is still choking, call 999 or 112, if you have not already done so

Step 4 - call 999 or 112

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

If your child becomes 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 during CPR you see the object, 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 training

St John Ambulance provides information and courses about what to do if a baby or small child is choking.

You can get training in how to give basic first aid to babies and children.

Organisations that offer this include:

Related Content

page last reviewed: 16/05/2019
next review due: 16/05/2022