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Be an emergency aider: choking

Learn the signs and symptoms of choking and find out what you should do to help.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Chairs

Before you begin

  • Make sure the person leading the activity knows about first aid. Someone from your group or local area with a first aid certificate could take charge, or you could reach out to places that help provide first aid training or support, for example, St John Ambulance or the British Red Cross.
  • You’ll need enough leaders for the activity, including enough people who are happy to demonstrate first aid techniques.
  • Adults should only demonstrate and practise first aid on other adults; young people should only demonstrate and practise first aid on other young people. Adults and young people should never demonstrate or practise first aid on each other.
  • Remember that this activity touches on topics that might be sensitive for some people. Give everyone the opportunity to step away if they need to compose themselves.
  • You could combine this activity with other emergency aid activities and run it as one of several bases.
  • Place the chairs in a semi-circle and get everyone to sit down so they can see the person who is talking.

Learn what to do

  1. Have a quick chat about our airways and why they are important. Everyone should take it in turns to share what they know about choking, including what it is, why it happens, how to recognise it, and what people should do to help.
  2. Use another adult as the casualty to show everyone what to do when someone is chocking. The first thing to do is ask them to clear their airway by coughing. If that doesn’t work, they should give them back blows. If that doesn’t work, they should demonstrate where to stand and put their hands to give the casualty abdominal thrusts, without actually giving an abdominal thrust. They should explain what they’re doing every step of the way.
  1. Everyone should get into pairs of young people. Each pair should take it in turns to practise asking their partner to cough, give back blows, and pretend to give abdominal thrusts (without giving them). Make sure adults are walking around so they can help if anyone’s finding it tricky.
  2. Everyone should come back together, and the person leading the activity should use information from St John Ambulance to explain how people would help a choking child or a choking baby.


This activity helped people to be responsible. Why is it important to stay calm, even though it can be scary to find someone choking? How do people feel now that they know they could help someone who’s choking? This activity was about learning essential skills. Can anyone remember the steps to treating someone who’s choking? Why do people think they start by asking the person to cough?


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.