While you wait for emergency services…

While you wait for emergency services…

While you wait for emergency services…

While applying first aid to another or yourself for choking, you may be able to dislodge the obstruction before EMS professionals arrive. If a person has lost consciousness and rescue breathing is required, you will likely need to continue CPR until EMS professionals arrive.

The recovery position

If the obstruction is expelled and a person is responsive, they also may not be fully awake. In this instance, you should place the individual in a recovery position. This position helps to reduce further risk of aspiration (inhaling foreign matter into the lungs, including vomit and saliva) and keeps the airways (including the mouth and nose) clear for easier breathing. It can happen that a person begins to vomit after the choking incident. Placing a person in the recovery position is recommended when this happens in order to ensure that no further foreign matter falls back down the throat and causes another choking incident.

Woman demonstrating recovery position in a first aid training class.

To place a person in the recovery position, take the following steps:
  • Lay the person flat on a hard surface.
  • Take the person’s arm that is closest to you and slowly extend it above their head.
  • Place the arm furthest from you across their chest.
  • Place one hand on the person’s shoulder (furthest away from you) and the another more or less at the hip (or at the knee) and roll the individual towards yourself, placing him or her on their side. Ensure that their head is resting against their extended arm. The crossed arm should help to support the person’s body weight in the new position.
  • Bend both of the individual’s legs at the knees, pulling the top leg slightly forward (over the other) to help stabilise the body.

Illustration of a patient placed in the recovery position to ensure a clear airway for adequate breathing.

An infant can also be placed in a similar position (on their side), but cradled in your arms, while taking care to support the head and neck, which should be tilted downwards. This will help keep the airways open.

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