This post is part of a series related to First Aid knowledge and skills. Join us in learning about First Aid, and lend your experiences and knowledge to the discussion! As a follow-up to Monday’s intro, I thought it would be fitting for the first installment in our series to address First Aid for choking. If you’ve ever choked on something, even momentarily, you know what a panicky feeling it can be. If you notice someone is having difficulty breathing, appears to be choking, or is giving the universal sign for choking (shown below), take the following steps.

First Aid for Choking - The Universal Sign for Choking

First Aid for Choking: Step-by-Step Instructions

For Infants (1 year and under)

  1. Get consent from the parent or guardian, if present.
  2. Give them 5 firm blows to the mid-to-upper back with the base of your palm.
  3. If the object isn’t dislodged, turn the infant over by sandwiching them between your forearms; hold them on your arm with their head supported in your hand, keeping their head lower than their chest.
  4. Give 5 chest thrusts (using 2 fingers placed just below the nipple line).
  5. Repeat back blows and chest thrusts until the object is dislodged, the infant begins coughing or crying, or they become unconscious.
  6. If the infant becomes unconscious, place the infant on a firm, safe surface and begin CPR. Have someone call 9-1-1. If you are alone, give about two minutes of CPR before calling 9-1-1 yourself.

For Adults and Children over 1 year

  1. For children, get consent from the parent or guardian, if present.
  2. Ask them quickly if they are choking. (This allows them to simply nod or shake their head, instead of trying to speak.)
  3. If they nod yes and/or can’t speak or cough, act quickly to help them.
  4. Give them 5 firm blows to the mid-to-upper back with the base of your palm.
  5. If the back blows don’t dislodge the object, continue with the following steps (the Heimlich maneuver).
  6. Stand behind the victim.
  7. Make a fist with one hand, placing the thumb side against the victim’s abdomen, above their belly button and below the ribs.
  8. Quickly thrust inward and upward into the abdomen (this action activates the diaphragm, forcing available air out of the lungs).
  9. Repeat thrusts until object is expelled or victim becomes unconscious.
  10. If the victim becomes unconscious, have someone call 9-1-1, and begin CPR—starting with looking for any objects blocking their airway.

Heimlich maneuver

If You’re Alone and You Begin Choking

  1. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have a land-line phone.
  2. Perform abdominal thrusts on yourself:
    1. Place a fist just above your belly button.
    2. Bend over a hard surface like a chair, countertop, or barstool.
    3. Using the surface for more power and stability, thrust your fist inward and upward to activate the diaphragm and expel air from your lungs and the object from your throat (you can also thrust your body forward onto your fist).
    4. Repeat.
Although we hope you never have to put this information to use, knowing how to provide first aid for choking can help prevent needless fatalities. What about you? Have you ever helped someone who was choking? What experiences do you have with performing the Heimlich maneuver or having it performed on you? --Sarah Sources: CPR, AED, and Basic First Aid booklet ($1.25 each from our online store)
Emergency preparednessFirst aidSkills




I used it not long ago on my husband, very scarey and took a lot more strength than I imagined it would. Had to press multiple times and he was bent over which made it harder for me. But I got it out. :-)

Lauralee Hensley

Lauralee Hensley

In the elderly don’t be surprised if you crack a couple of ribs. I did once when I was a nurse. Their bones and ribs are often brittle. I actually did the anti-choking procedure on myself once over a chair. By the way the H________ maneuver is a copyrighted phrase, especially the H word part. You might want to call it the anti-choking procedure or anti-choking maneuver. I know at ambulance companies that give classes for many nurses in our region they told us they can’t use the H__________ Maneuver in any of their class speeches or in print instructions because of the copyright the family of the Doctor that invented it, put on the procedure. Even the movie Overboard had to pay to use the phrase in their movie. So, might change it here to anti-choking before the copyright minions of terror come asking for some form of payment for using it in your article. Just trying to give you a fore warning. Don’t know how diligent they are or aren’t, but if they copyrighted it, I imagine they are a bit diligent.



Connie, I’m so glad you were there to help! I can imagine it was more difficult with him bent over—especially if he started to lose strength or consciousness and couldn’t hold himself up. —Sarah

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