Recently, the News has reported incredibly sad and horrific incidents where toddlers have choked to death. Fatalities from choking still remain incredibly rare, however it remains one of parents' worst nightmares and it is crucially important to know how to help.
Prompt and appropriate First Aid can save lives.
Visit and for FREE resources. Emma Hammett from First Aid for Life takes you through the best way to help if your baby or child is choking.
Choking: How to help a choking child
If your child is choking, it can be petrifying and difficult to know the best way to help.

Babies and young children often put small objects in their mouth. To prevent choking: keep small objects out of reach, cut up food into very small pieces and supervise children while they’re eating, especially if they are under five years old.
Signs of serious choking: Unable to speak or cry, clutching their throat, struggling to breathe.
How to help a choking child over one year:
  • If a child shows signs of choking, stay calm and encourage them to cough to help remove the object themselves.
  • If unable to cough, bend the child forward, supporting their chest with one hand and with the other hand; give a firm back blow between the shoulder blades.
  • Give up to 5 back blows checking each time if the blockage has cleared. If the back blows haven’t helped, get an ambulance on the way
If the back blows haven’t help, the next stage is an abdominal thrust/Heimlich manoeuvre:
  • Stand behind the child and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under in a 'J' shaped motion to dislodge the obstruction. Perform abdominal thrusts up to five times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared. Anyone who has received abdominal thrusts must be seen by a doctor.
  • If the child is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and alternate five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point the child becomes unconscious, commence CPR.
For a baby under one year:
  • First, check in the baby’s mouth, and if there is something obvious, remove it with finger tips.
NEVER put your fingers down a baby or child’s throat, or finger-sweep the mouth, as this can make matters worse by pushing the obstruction further down or by causing swelling.
  • Lay the baby downwards on your forearm, supporting them under their chin with your hand and, using the flat of your hand, give a firm back blow between the shoulder blades.
  • Give up to five back blows and check between each blow to see if the blockage has cleared. If the obstruction has not come out, get an ambulance on the way.
  • If this hasn’t helped, lay the baby on their back, place two fingers in the centre of the chest just below the nipple line, and give up to five chest thrusts (same place as you push when doing chest compressions on a baby).
    Warning: Never do an abdominal thrusts on a baby under a year as you could cause damage.
  • Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each chest thrust.
  • If the baby is still choking, call 999/112, and continue to alternate five back blows and five chest thrusts until emergency help arrives.
If at any point baby becomes unconscious, start CPR immediately.
If the obstruction clears: 
  • If they are unconscious but breathing, put in the recovery position.
  • If they are unconscious and not breathing, start CPR.
  • If they seem absolutely fine - ensure that they don’t have problems swallowing, check there is no pain or bleeding – it is always advisable to have them checked out by a medical professional. If it is not your child, ensure that you have contacted the parents.
If the child has been given abdominal thrusts or chest thrusts, they should always be checked by a medical professional.
It is strongly advised that you undertake an expert First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit or telephone 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.
First Aid Instructor



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