What should I do when someone is choking?

Choking happens when someone's airway suddenly gets blocked, either fully or partly, so they can't breathe. 

Mild choking: encourage them to cough

If the airway is only partly blocked, the person will usually be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. They will usually be able to clear the blockage themselves.

To help with mild choking in an adult or child over one year old:

  • Encourage the person to keep coughing to try and clear the blockage. 
  • Ask the person to try to spit out the object if it's in their mouth. 
  • Don't put your fingers in their mouth to help them as they may bite you accidentally. 

If coughing doesn't work, start back blows (see below).

Severe choking: back blows and abdominal thrusts 

Where choking is severe, the person will not be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. Without help, they will eventually become unconscious.

To help an adult or child over one year old:

  • Stand behind the person and slightly to one side. Support their chest with one hand. Lean the person forward so that the object blocking their airway will come out of their mouth, rather than moving further down. 
  • Give up to five sharp blows between the person's shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. (The heel is between the palm of your hand and your wrist). 
  • Check if the blockage has cleared. 
  • If not, give up to five abdominal thrusts (see below). 

Important: Don't give abdominal thrusts to babies under one year old or to pregnant women. 

  • Stand behind the person who is choking. 
  • Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward. 
  • Clench one fist and place it right above their belly button. 
  • Put the other hand on top of your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards. 
  • Repeat this movement up to five times. 

If the person's airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, get help immediately:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Tell the 999 operator that the person is choking. 
  • Continue with the cycles of five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives. 

If the person loses consciousness and they're not breathing, you should begin cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.

Read about how to carry out Compression-only CPR and CPR with rescue breaths


Get urgent medical help (A&E, NHS Walk-in centre or their GP if in hours) if:

  • they have a persistent cough after choking 
  • they feel something is still stuck in their throat 

Abdominal thrusts can cause serious injuries. Where this potentially life-saving treatment has been necessary, a health professional such as your GP or a doctor in A&E should always examine the person afterwards.

What are the emergency numbers that we should know?

Police – 211

Fire Services – 311

Island Care Ambulance Service – 537-9425

What should I do in an emergency?

Help us to help you. When a medical emergency arises, it is important that, although the situation might be frightening, you remain calm and summon help. This can make the difference between recovery and tragedy.

  • DIAL 537-9425
  • Listen carefully to the emergency medical dispatcher's questions. You will be asked:
  • What is the exact location you want the ambulance to come to? What is the phone number you are calling from?
  • The name and age (if known) of the patient
  • Is she or he conscious (awake)
  • Is the patient male or female?
  • Try to have someone go outside and flag the ambulance down
  • Turn your patio light on at night if you have one
  • Put away your dogs; no matter how tame the are, they may sense something’s wrong and act aggressively
What information is required when making a medical emergency call?
  • The patient’s full name
  • The patient’s full address
  • A short description of the emergency (**YOU SHOULD PRACTICE MAKING AN EMERGENCY CALL)
How to advise/train children to make emergency calls

On the call, the child should:

  • Give their full name
  • Give their full address
  • Give a short description of the emergency
  • Ask your child to tell you the emergency number, followed by his/her full name and address.
  • Next, let them practice by speaking into an unplugged telephone. Suggest a situation, such as Mummy has fainted etc.
  • After they have dialed the number, prompt him/her with questions that an emergency operator would ask, such as “What is your name?”
  • Make sure they can answer to “Where are you calling from?” and “What is the emergency?”. Stress that they should try to stay calm.
  • Make sure your child understands that these numbers should only be dialed in an emergency and never for fun or play.
How do I keep safe at the beach?
  • Never swim alone; if you have someone else with you, there’s always someone who can go for help in case of an emergency. If possible, always swim where you can see a lifeguard.
  • Don’t swim close to piers or rocks, because sudden water movements may cause you to collide with them.
  • Never stand with your back to the water, because a sudden wave can easily knock you over.
  • Tell an adult right away if you have been stung while in the water.
  • If you are a good swimmer and have had lessons, keep an eye on friends who are not as skilled as you are.
  • Pay attention to 'No Swimming’ signs or red flags. Red flags mean no swimming

Try to avoid the following

What are the opening hours of the business?

Office: Mondays to Fridays – 8:30AM to 5:30PM

Dedicated Emergency Lines: 537-9425  OR  537-9315

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