Recognition of Complete Airway Blockage

Complete obstruction can be recognised where:

  • There may be efforts at breathing
  • There is no sound of breathing
  • There is no escape of air from nose and/or mouth.

Airway obstruction may not be apparent in the non-breathing unconscious person until rescue breathing is attempted.

Follow the D.R.S.A.B.C.D. Action Plan (Primary Survey) and call the ambulance (000)

If the person is conscious, send for an ambulance and perform up to five sharp, back blows with the heel of one hand in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades.

  • Check to see if each back blow has relieved the airway obstruction. The aim is to relieve the obstruction with each blow rather than to give all five blows
  • An infant may be placed in a head downwards position prior to delivering back blows, i.e. across the rescuer’s lap
  • If back blows are unsuccessful the rescuer should perform up to 5 chest thrusts.

To perform chest thrusts, identify the same compression point as for CPR and give up to 5 chest thrusts. These are similar to chest compressions but sharper and delivered at a slower rate.

  • The infant should be placed in a head downwards position on their back across the rescuer’s thigh, while children and adults may be treated in the sitting or standing position
  • If the obstruction is still not relieved and the person remains responsive, continue alternating 5 back blows with 5 chest thrusts
  • If the person becomes unresponsive a finger sweep can be used if solid material is visible in the airway
  • Call an ambulance and start CPR.