This last weekend while eating at a restaurant a friend of mine choked to death. The first thing that goes through your mind is why someone didn’t give him the Heimlich maneuver. Actually several people tried unsuccessfully to give it. He was a large man and his size may have made it hard to accomplish. The paramedics were unsuccessful in an attempt to resuscitate him.
Since then I have talked to several medical people about the Heimlich maneuver and have learned a lot. First it doesn’t always work. One friend who is a paramedic in Canada says that their procedure is to try the Heimlich 5 times, then bend the person over and strike between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand 5 times and then repeat the Heimlich 5 more times. Continue until the blockage pops or the person passes out. If they go unconscious start CPR.
I was also told that many people will run into the bathroom thinking they are going to throw up. This is a big mistake and sometimes they just die alone in the bathroom. If you are choking victim, hold your hand up to your throat and try to attract attention.
If the person can still cough or talk, do not give the Heimlich maneuver, get them to medical attention, so that the blockage can be removed.
So how do you perform the Heimlich maneuver?
- First ask, “Are you choking? Can you speak?” DO NOT perform first aid if the person is coughing forcefully and is able to speak. A strong cough can often dislodge the object.
- If the person is choking, perform abdominal thrusts as follows:
- If the person is sitting or standing, position yourself behind the person and reach your arms around his or her waist. For a child, you may have to kneel.
- Place your fist, thumb side in, just above the person’s navel (belly button).
- Grasp the fist tightly with your other hand.
- Make quick, upward and inward thrusts with your fist.
- If the person is lying on his or her back, straddle the person facing the head. Push your grasped fist upward and inward in a movement similar to the one above.
- You may need to repeat the procedure several times before the object is dislodged. If repeated attempts do not free the airway, call 911.
- If the person loses consciousness, start CPR.
- If you are not comfortable performing abdominal thrusts, you can perform back blows instead on a person who is choking.
Most experts do not recommend abdominal thrusts for infants less than 1 year old.
Giving the Heimlich maneuver to yourself
If you are choking on something, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself. Follow these steps:
- Make a fist with one hand. Place your thumb of this hand below your rib cage and above your navel.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand. Press your fist into the area with a quick upward movement.
- You can also lean over a table edge, chair, or railing. Quickly thrust your upper belly area (upper abdomen) against the edge.
- If you need to, you should repeat this motion until the object blocking your airway comes out.
I am not a Doctor and have not had any special medical training, so in an emergency immediately dial 911 and get competent medical help.
**This article was republished April 2022 because it is important for people to remember. Be careful out there and watch for signs of someone choking.