What to Do – With all of the restaurants we have on this island it is amazing that there are so few choking causalities. A person who suddenly realizes there is a chunk of food lodged in his or her throat usually does not grab their throat. On the contrary—they may sit in total denial that they are, in fact, choking. They may try to sip water a few times unsuccessfully and look around to see if anyone is watching. They may sit and stare while sweating profusely. At some point they may stand up and attempt to escape to the bathroom or they may signal for help by pointing to their throat.

This is when time is of the essence. Their airway is closed off and they can not talk to you or yell out for help. To assist this person, you must dislodge the blockage as soon as possible. If the afflicted person is standing, place your strong leg in between his or her legs; this will help you control their fall should they pass out. Place your arms under their arms and around the chest. Make a fist with one hand and grasp the fist with your other hand. Give five sharp fast thrusts against the chest wall. This should dislodge the blockage.


If the person passes out, you can open his or her mouth to see if the blockage is visible and easy to sweep out. If it is, roll the casualty onto their left side and perform a sweep with your finger. Remember that if the person is still alert, he or she may bite your finger on impulse—in other words, do not stick you finger in an alert person’s mouth! If the blockage is not visible and you cannot deliver two rescue breaths, perform CPR. The chest compressions should be enough to help dislodge the blockage. Don’t give up! Call for help.

Some area’s protocols may require you to perform abdominal thrusts. Please check with your local health care trainer for their techniques.

With any choking person, proper medical attention is needed even after you successfully dislodge the blockage and breathing resumes. This technique is the same for a child, just use one hand for the chest compressions. 

Mark Wollner
Emergency First Responder Instructor
Former EMT