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A Breath Away: Understanding Choking and First Aid in Australia

    Choking is a frightening and potentially life-threatening situation that can happen unexpectedly, turning a moment of enjoyment into a moment of panic. In this blog, we will explore what choking is, common causes, and the best first-aid treatment for choking in Australia.


    So, what is choking?

    Choking occurs when an object, liquid or food obstructs the airway, making breathing difficult or impossible. It’s a common emergency that can happen to anyone, regardless of age or background. Common causes include swallowing large pieces of food, objects getting stuck in the throat, or inhaling small objects.

    First Aid for Choking in Australia

    1. Recognise the signs

    • Difficulty breathing or inability to breathe
    • Coughing weekly or not at all
    • Inability to speak or cry out
    • Bluish or ashen skin colour

    2. Stay calm and assess the situation

    • Encourage the person to cough to attempt to clear the obstruction
    • If the person cannot cough, speak, or breathe, immediate action is needed
    • Call the emergency services on 000 or, if on a mobile phone, dial 112

    3. Perform back blows and chest thrusts

    • Stand behind the person and in an upward motion, strike the person sharply and with force between the shoulder blades five (5) times checking for dislodgement between strikes
    • Stand in front of the person, after placing them against a wall, post or some other immovable object, and push on their sternum forcefully five (5) times. This can only be done if you are the same height as the person.
    • Once the chest thrusts are completed, return to the completing more back thrusts and keep alternating until the object comes out, the person collapses, or the emergency services arrive.
    • DO NOT PERFORM THE HEIMLICH MANOEUVRE: An incorrect application of the Heimlich Manoeuvre by a first aider can dislodge the cartilage located at the bottom of the sternum causing it to lacerate and puncture the liver. It can also cause damage to the spinal cord and the back of the person.

    4. If the person is Pregnant or Unconscious

    5. Continue efforts until help arrives

    • If the person loses consciousness, start CPR. If at any point the object is expelled, reassess breathing and provide appropriate care.

    How can you prevent a choking incident?

    • Cut food into small, manageable pieces, especially for young children
    • Supervise children while eating or playing to prevent small objects from being put in the mouth
    • Encourage chewing thoroughly and eating slowly

    In conclusion, choking is a serious and time-sensitive emergency that requires quick and effective action. By staying calm, recognising the signs, and performing the back blows and chest thrust manoeuvers promptly, you can significantly increase the chances of successfully clearing the airway obstruction. Familiarising yourself with basic first aid techniques and being prepared for emergencies is essential for creating safer environments, whether at home, in public spaces, or at events. Always remember to seek professional medical help if needed and stay informed about first aid practices to enhance community safety.


    Don’t forget to visit our Blog page for more articles on other interesting topics.

    If you want to stay educated about choking and further your training, take a look at our first aid and CPR courses here.


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