Choking is a common breathing emergency. The airway may be partiallyor completely blocked by food or any other object. A choking person can still breathe orspeak with a partially blocked airway. A person whose airway is completely blocked can notbreathe at all.

A choking person who is coughing forcefully is trying to cough upthe object. A coughing person is getting enough air to breathe. Stay with the person andencourage them to continue coughing. If the object cannot be removed, then dial 911 forhelp.

Clutching the throat with one or both hands is usually considered adistress signal for choking.

A person who can not cough or speak is choking. The airway must beopened at once. A series of quick thrusts to the abdomen is called the Heimlich maneuver.The upward thrust pushes the stomach, which forces the air in the lungs, hopefullyremoving the object from the airway – like a cork in a champagne bottle.

To give abdominal thrusts – stand behind the victim. Wrap yourarms around the victim’s waist. Make a fist with one hand and place the thumb side ofyour hand against the middle of the abdomen, just above the belly button but below the ribcage. Grab your fist with your other hand and give quick upward and inward thrusts intothe victim’s abdomen. Repeat the thrusts until the object is forced out, or thevictim becomes unconscious.


  • Victim is clutching his/her throat
  • Victim is coughing forcefully
  • Victim has whistling or high-pitched noise.


  • Encourage forceful coughing
  • Contact the 911 number
  • Perform the Heimlich maneuver

more information on the Heimlich Maneuver (National Institutes of Health)