Strangulation/suffocation can cause damage to the neck and brain, similar to what happens after concussion, or being knocked out. Serious problems are rare, but can develop hours or even days after the injury occurred.

If this has happened to you, it is important that you seek immediate medical help.

Scroll down to see where to get medical help and further information and support

Shine NFS brochure

What is Strangulation/Suffocation?

Strangulation (often confused with "choking") is when pressure is applied on or around the neck with enough force to reduce or stop breathing, or change the blood supply to and/or from the brain. This means that less oxygen is reaching the brain. Pressure can be applied in different ways - with one or two hands, or with something like a rope, or anything that puts pressure onto the throat. Suffocation is when breathing is reduced or stopped either by a) obstruction over the nose and mouth or b) compression on the chest or abdomen so that the lungs cannot expand and take in air. "Choking" is different as it refers to a blockage inside the throat which makes it hard to breathe.

What is the law change regarding Strangulation/Suffocation?

In 2018, a new offence of strangulation or suffocation came into force in Aotearoa New Zealand. This carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment (section 189A of the Crimes Act 1961).

Frequently Asked Questions

This information is NOT a substitution for seeking immediate medical help after being strangled

Go to your doctor or local urgent medical centre, the hospital, or call an ambulance (dial 111) if you experience any of the following:

  • sleepy or difficult to wake
  • confused (don't know where you are or get things mixed up)
  • fits/seizures (falling down and shaking)
  • bad headache or neck pain not helped by paracetamol (Panadol)
  • problems with breathing
  • tongue swelling
  • vomiting (being sick)
  • any weakness or numbness, or problems with balance or walking
  • problems with vision
  • difficulty speaking or understanding speech

If after seeing a medical practitioner about being strangled you develop new bruises or swelling, or feel worried, see your family doctor (GP) for a check or contact the doctor that you saw initially (if different) - they may be able to give you advice over the phone.

The following mild problems usually get better without any treatment, but if they persist for 2 weeks, see your family doctor for advice:

  • mild headache
  • feeling dizzy
  • trouble remembering things or concentrating for long periods
  • feeling tired, or easily annoyed
  • disrupted sleep patterns
  • bruises (small or pinpoint) on your face, neck and body
  • small burst blood vessels in your eyes

Strangulation injuries can have as big an impact on your psychological wellbeing as they can on your physical health. Seeing a counsellor can help provide you with support. Your GP, practice nurse, or the clinic that were assessed at initially, will be able to direct you to some local agencies who will be able to assist you.

  • DO take paracetamol (Panadol) for headache
  • DO take your usual pills
  • Do NOT take sleeping pills unless your doctor says you can
  • Do NOT drink any alcohol until you are better
  • Do NOT drive for at least 24 hours
  • DO take a few days off work or school if needed; some extra rest can make you feel much better
  • DO see your doctor for a check if you need further time off
  • DO start mild exercise when you feel better
  • DO check with your doctor or sports coach before playing sport again
  • Do NOT play any sport which could injure your head for at least 3 weeks

Strangulation/suffocation is very dangerous

Most people get better after a strangulation/suffocation injury, however sometimes longer term problems or injuries may result. It is important that you seek medical advice from a medical practitioner as soon as possible, and let them know you have been strangled/suffocated.

Where to get medical help

If you have been strangled/suffocated, go to your:

  • Family doctor (GP)
  • Local urgent medical care clinic
  • Local hospital

Or call an ambulance (dial 111) if you are experiencing any strangulation/suffocation injuries.

If you are in immediate danger call the Police (dial 111).

Where to get further information & support

If you are a victim of family violence or in a relationship that makes you fearful about your own or anyone else's safety, seek help as soon as possible. You have the right to be safe.