First aid advice: what to do in an emergency

Arrow Discover more

1/3 Choking

Choking is a common occurrence, especially in small children who often put things in their mouths. Signs that your little one could be choking include coughing, struggling for breath and pointing to their throat. If you act quickly you can easily sort this out.

Note: always make sure anyone who has been significantly choking is checked over by a medical professional, especially if you have had to use chest or abdominal thrusts.

For adults and children over one

  • Stay calm and shout for help. If the victim is able to, let them cough the object out themselves
  • If they are unable to cough effectively, lean them forwards and give five back blows – sharp slaps between the shoulder blades. After each one, check if they’ve coughed anything out
  • If back blows don’t work, give five abdominal thrusts – stand behind them, put one fist just above the belly button and wrap your other hand over the top, then pull inwards and upwards. Check whether they have coughed anything out after each thrust
  • Alternate back slaps and abdominal thrusts until the object is coughed up
  • If they lose consciousness, start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and make sure an ambulance has been called

For children under one

  • Put them in a head-down position rather than leaning forwards
  • Use chest thrusts instead of abdominal thrusts – push down on the middle of the chest using two fingers

2/3 Severe bleeding

Injuries on holiday are no surprise but if someone has a serious wound bleeding heavily:

  • Apply pressure to the area. If there’s an object in the wound, don’t take it out. Instead, apply pressure either side of it
  • Call for emergency help
  • Apply a secure dressing and bandage over the wound
  • If they feel unwell, get them to lie down and raise their legs – this increases blood flow to the head

3/3 When someone collapses

Adults collapse for many reasons, sometimes indicating issues with the heart, whereas children are more likely to collapse due to a breathing problem.

CPR for adults

  • Check for a response and breathing – if they are breathing and unresponsive, put them into the recovery position. If they are not breathing, go to step two
  • Shout for help and ask someone to call an ambulance. Get the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED) if available
  • Start chest compressions – press down with both hands in the middle of the chest. Ideally, you want to press down at least 5cm at a rate of two per second
  • Alternate 30 compressions with two rescue breaths (if you know how). If not, just continue with continuous chest compressions
  • Continue until help arrives or the person recovers. If an AED arrives, attach it and follow the on-screen instructions

CPR for children

  • Give five rescue breaths before starting chest compressions, and alternate 15 compressions with two breaths
  • Otherwise, you can just use the adult sequence for children

For further first aid advice visit the St John Ambulance

Get travel news and competitions sent to your inbox