This information applies to adults and children over one year old. If you want advice for babies under one year old, see the next section.
Choking happens when someone's airway suddenly gets blocked, either fully or partly, so they can't breathe.
If the airway is only partly blocked, the person will usually be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. They will usually be able to clear the blockage themselves.
To help with mild choking in an adult or child over one year old:
If coughing doesn't work, start back blows.
Where choking is severe, the person will not be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. Without help, they will eventually become unconscious.
To help an adult or child over one year old:
Important: Don't give abdominal thrusts to babies under one year old or to pregnant women.
To carry out an abdominal thrust:
If the person's airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, get help immediately:
If the person loses consciousness and they're not breathing, you should begin cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.
Get urgent medical help (A&E, Walk-in centre or their GP if in hours) if:
Abdominal thrusts can cause serious injuries. Where this potentially life-saving treatment has been necessary, a health professional such as your GP or a doctor in A&E should always examine the person afterwards.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.