Complete Obstruction

Gel Candies

Complete airway obstruction usually occurs when a round, rubbery object is inhaled and becomes stuck (like a cork) between the vocal cords.

If inhaled below the vocal cords, a hard and spherical object (such as a marble) or multiple small objects (such as a handful of nuts), can also cause complete airway obstruction.

A popped balloon or a piece of plastic wrap (or a plastic bag), stuck above the vocal cords, can also cause complete airway obstruction.


The choking victim is unable to breath, cough or talk. The choking victim rapidly turns blue (cyanotic).


The choking victim will die unless a Heimlich maneuver is performed.

Complete obstruction is the only time the Heimlich maneuver should be performed.

To learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver for children and adults, please take a Livesaving Course.

Did You Know?!

A 2013 report stated that, from 2001 to 2009, an average of 12,435 children (14 years old or younger) per year were treated in US Emergency Rooms because of food-related choking.[Ref:1]