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?!

The presence of older siblings in the household increases the risk for choking, possibly because toys and other objects with small parts are more likely to be present and caregiving activities, such as feeding, to be undertaken by older siblings.[Ref:44]