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Choking Adult

(757) 668-7000

(A person who has entered puberty or is older)


Choking is when food or an object gets stuck in the airway or the throat and stops air from getting to the lungs. Choking can be mild or severe.

Mild choking: The person can make sounds and can cough loudly. You should:

  • Stay close by and let him cough.
  • Call 9-1-1 if you are concerned about his breathing.

Severe choking: The person cannot breathe OR cannot make a sound OR his cough makes no sound OR he uses the choking sign, holding his neck with one or both hands. You should:

  • Act quickly to get the object out of his airway so he can breathe.

Stops responding: The person is not breathing and does nothing when you tap him and ask if he is OK.

How to help an adult with severe choking:

  1. Ask: “Are you choking?” If he nods his head tell him you are going to help.
  2. If he is coughing and can talk, stand by to help as needed.
  3. If he is unable to make a sound or talk, perform abdominal thrusts (the Heimlich Maneuver).
    • Get behind him. Wrap your arms around him with your hands in front.
    • Place one fist slightly above the belly button and below the breastbone with thumb side next to the belly.
    • Grasp your fist with your other hand and give quick upward thrusts into the belly.
    • If the person is very large or pregnant, place your arms under her armpits and your hands on the lower half of the breastbone. Pull straight back to give thrusts.
  4. Repeat giving thrusts until the object comes out and the person can breathe, cough or talk OR until he stops responding

How to help a choking adult who stops responding:

  1. Lower the person to the ground. Slide his body down your body and use your hands to support his head and neck. 
  2. Tap and shout. If person does not respond, yell for help. 
  3. Call 9-1-1 if help does not arrive. 
  4. Check breathing – No response + no breathing or only gasping = Give CPR.
  5.  Continue giving CPR (push hard and fast on the chest) until the object comes out and the person can breathe, cough or talk, OR until someone with advanced skills arrives. 

NOTE: If thrusts are needed to relieve choking, the person should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 10/2017

(757) 668-7000