The first step in choking first aid is recognising that a child has an airway blockage. This guide explains the signs and takes you through what to do when a child is choking.

Partial airway blockage: choking signs

The following signs can tell you that a child’s airway is partially blocked:

  • loss of voice 
  • choking noises
  • coughing that keeps getting worse
  • gagging
  • wheezing
  • anxiety and agitation
  • stridor (a shrill rattling sound)
  • sudden chest pain.

Complete airway blockage: choking signs

The following signs can tell you that a child’s airway is completely blocked:

  • The child can’t breathe.
  • The child can’t make any sounds.
  • No air is getting out of the child’s nose and/or mouth.
  • The child’s skin goes pale or blue in colour.
  • The child starts to lose consciousness quickly.

Choking first aid for airway blockage

If a child is choking and you think she has a blocked airway, phone 000 immediately.

For a baby under one year do the following:

  • Lay the baby facing downwards on your forearm or over your thigh – remember to always support baby’s head and neck.
  • If the baby is old enough to understand, encourage him to cough.

For a child aged over one year do the following:

  • Encourage the child to lean forward.
  • Encourage the child to cough while you’re waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Check out our illustrated guide to choking first aid. You could print it out and stick it somewhere handy, like your fridge.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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