Can you perform CPR on someone who has choked?

Can you perform CPR on someone who has choked?

Want to learn more about performing CPR on someone who’s choking? We’ll discuss this here. Choking is one of the most common emergencies when an adult, child, or infant needs a CPR procedure. It is a result of airway obstruction caused by a foreign body. The reasons behind it can be many. That’s why when a person is choking, you sometimes have to perform an entire CPR procedure, including rescue breathing.

If you’re asking yourself, “Can you perform CPR on someone who has choked?” this article will provide the answer, as well as show you more about the connection between the CPR procedure and choking.

Choking & Performing CPR: A Very Common Emergency

Choking is the fourth leading death cause in the United States. It’s one of the most frequent emergencies among children and infants. The anatomy behind choking is quite simple. It’s characterized by a foreign body stuck in the larynx or trachea. This foreign body, which in most cases is a chunk of food, causes a complete airway obstruction.

There are many reasons why choking can occur both in adults and infants. However, some of the most common causes of choking are:


      • Eating or drinking at an excessive speed

      • Swallowing insufficiently chewed morsels of food

      • Swallowing small bones and tiny objects

      • Unintentional inhalation of small objects

    Furthermore, as an emergency, choking has specific symptoms and signs that you can immediately recognize. Some of them include:


        • Hands clutched to the stomach or the throat

        • Coughing

        • Panic and confusion

        • Lips, mouth, and face changing color, turning blue or grey

        • Losing consciousness

        • Chest, neck, or throat pains

        • Gagging

        • Collapse

      If you notice any of these signs, you should immediately know that the person’s airways are blocked, and you need to take action. So can you perform CPR on someone who has choked?

      What You Should Do Before Performing CPR

      The American Red Cross offers a comprehensive guide on choking. There are three main things you should do with a choking person before you start performing a CPR procedure:


          1. Give the choking person five back blows – Bend the person forward and give them five back blows between the shoulders and the blades by using the heel of your free hand. If the person choking is an infant or a baby, kneel behind it and repeat the same technique with lighter blows.

          1. Give five abdominal thrusts – This is the second step you should take if the back blows don’t give any results. The abdominal thrusts are also known as the Heimlich maneuver and are a regular part of first-aid classes.

          1. Continue with combining these two moves – If the person is still choking, continue with alternatively giving five back blows and five abdominal thrusts. However, this can’t last forever because the person may start losing consciousness and oxygen in the brain.

        If this doesn’t help, you can proceed to give a CPR procedure. Mind that CPR differs between age groups and that a person choking must get full CPR (including mouth-to-mouth ventilation).

        An Unconscious Choking CPR Emergency Response

        You should usually proceed to cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the person has lost consciousness. Once you notice that the person loses consciousness and oxygen in the brain, you should lay them on their back and inspect for the foreign object stuck in the larynx or the throat.

        If you can’t find and remove it, you should start performing chest compressions and artificial ventilation. This way, you’ll be able to pump in some air in the person’s lungs and thus maintain the critical level of oxygen. Moreover, CPR compression may be quite helpful in making the object come out of the larynx and into the mouth.

        If you’ve found yourself in a situation where an adult is unconscious and choking, you should do the regular CPR procedure – 2 rescue breaths after 30 chest compressions. After each cycle, you should check the mouth for the object.

        If you notice it, immediately remove the object from the person’s mouth. If they’re still unconscious, be careful not to let them bite you or swallow their tongue while removing the object. Then, continue performing the CPR procedure.

        Furthermore, you mustn’t do this for more than 2 minutes because the damage of oxygen deficiency may be permanent. That’s why experts suggest that you immediately call 911 before you start performing CPR on an unconscious choking person.

        This way, you’ll be able to preserve the oxygen level, prevent brain damage, and keep the person alive before the emergency teams arrive and transport the victim to a hospital. Additionally, they always carry an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) for cases when the person’s heart rhythm is disturbed.

        The Heimlich Maneuver: Something You Must Do Before CPR

        Before giving a full CPR procedure to the unconscious, the first thing to do is try the Heimlich maneuver. It’s an easy and simple move of abdominal thrusts that has to be done in a few repetitions. However, you should always keep in mind that the maneuver is done only to a conscious choking person.

        These abdominal thrusts lift the diaphragm and force the air out of the lungs to create an artificial cough. This cough is meant to thrust the foreign object out of the larynx or the lungs.

        Following are the basic steps of the Heimlich maneuver:


            1. Make the person stand up.

            1. Stand behind the person and put your arms around their abdomen.

            1. Place your fist just below their ribcage (around 2 inches above the belly button).

            1. Give five consecutive thrusts by thrusting your hands inward and outward.

            1. Repeat the Heimlich maneuver until the foreign object is released or the person goes unconscious.

          Sometimes these five steps are enough. But, if the choking person starts losing consciousness, a CPR procedure is necessary. Remember that you should perform a full CPR procedure consisting of chest compressions and rescue breaths. Furthermore, when the person loses consciousness, mind their age before performing the technique.

          How to Avoid Choking & How Performing CPR Works

          There are many ways to prevent choking and thus avoid performing CPR on an unconscious person. For example, you can avoid choking by chopping your foods into smaller pieces, chewing properly and more slowly, avoiding excessive intake of alcohol while eating, avoiding laughing and talking while eating, and more.

          Nonetheless, once the person starts to choke, you’ll have to give back blows or abdominal thrusts. If the person continues to choke and loses consciousness, then you proceed to CPR. However, the CPR procedure when choking is not the same for adults, children, and infants – the compression-ventilation ratio is different.

          For instance, when you encounter an unconscious adult choking, you should do 100 to 120 compressions per minute. You’ll have to use the heel of both hands to perform the compression to guarantee effectiveness and hopefully get the foreign object out of the body. After every 30 compressions, you’ll have to give 2 rescue breaths.

          On the other hand, if a child is choking, you’ll usually have to use the heel of one hand to do the compressions. Remember that you’ll have to do the compressions on a depth of 3 to 5 inches of the chest. Keep the same compression-ventilation ratio (30:2).

          If an infant starts choking, which is one of the most common cases, place two fingers on the breastbone right beneath the nipples. Keep your free hand placed on the infant’s forehead and keep its head tilted backward. Then, start giving 30 fast and continuous compressions. Lay down and hear if the infant is breathing. If not, give 2 rescue breaths and continue with the CPR.

          What We Learned About Performing CPR on Someone Who’s Choking

          Choking can happen to anyone and anywhere. In such an emergency, it’s best to immediately apply first aid techniques like the Heimlich maneuver if the person is conscious or performing CPR if they’re unconscious. That’s why numerous institutions across the US provide first-aid, BLS, and CPR classes.

          However, if you find yourself in such a situation, the first thing you should do is call 911. After that, proceed with CPR because if a choking person stays unconscious and without breath for more than four minutes, they may suffer irreversible brain damage.