Nothing scares a parent more than a choking child. If a person cannot breathe, irreversible brain damage can occur within minutes, so choking is a true medical emergency and rapid action is required.

Choking Child 7

The good news, however, is that basic first-aid knowledge will solve the problem in the vast majority of cases.

Just remember the basic steps:

Coughing If the child can cough effectively and is therefore able to breathe, let them cough and encourage them to do so. Not only does coughing indicate that the child is trying to dislodge the object themselves, coughing also means that the child can still breathe!

Back blows If the child is unable to cough effectively, an ambulance should be called and up to 5 back blows between the shoulder blades should be given with the heel of the hand, preferably with the child’s head down low. After each blow, check to see if the obstruction has been relieved.

Chest thrusts If the back blows were not successful, perform up to 5 chest thrusts in the middle of the chest (in the same place as for CPR). Chest thrusts are very similar to chest compressions for CPR, but are sharper and delivered at a slower rate. A baby should be placed in a head downwards position for the chest thrusts to be given. Children and adults may be treated in a sitting or standing position. After each thrust, check to see if the obstruction has been relieved (so you’re performing only one thrust at a time).

Continue 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts If the obstruction is not relieved, the rescuer should continue alternating 5 back blows with 5 chest thrusts.

CPR If the patient becomes unconscious, a finger sweep should be performed if the object is clearly visible. Never blindly shove your fingers into a child’s mouth to try to remove the obstruction, as there is a high chance you will simply push it further down! Only use your fingers if you can see the object and are confident that you can easily remove it without lodging it further.

The rescuer should then start resuscitation.

This Nine News clip shows an interview with a mum after saving her child from choking, as well as an interview with her instructor, Steve Lewsen, from Family First Aid.

For info on running a child-specific first-aid course in your own home, contact Steve Lewsen, Director of Family First Aid, on 0402 043 181 or email