How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver

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Choking because of an obstructed airway is a leading cause of accidental death. If a choking person is not coughing or is unable to speak, that's your cue to perform the Heimlich maneuver immediately. Here are a few steps to help save a choking victim.

Things You'll Need

  • First Aid Kits
  • First Aid Books
  • First Aid Classes
  • Ask the choking person to stand if he or she is sitting.

  • Place yourself slightly behind the standing victim.

  • Reassure the victim that you know the Heimlich maneuver and are going to help.

  • Place your arms around the victim's waist.

  • Make a fist with one hand and place your thumb toward the victim, just above his or her belly button.

  • Grab your fist with your other hand.

  • Deliver five upward squeeze-thrusts into the abdomen.

  • Make each squeeze-thrust strong enough to dislodge a foreign body.

  • Understand that your thrusts make the diaphragm move air out of the victim's lungs, creating a kind of artificial cough.

  • Keep a firm grip on the victim, since he or she can lose consciousness and fall to the ground if the Heimlich maneuver is not effective.

  • Repeat the Heimlich maneuver until the foreign body is expelled.

Tips & Warnings

  • If a victim is coughing strongly or able to talk, let the person try to expel the foreign body using his or her own efforts.
  • If the choking victim displays a weak or ineffective cough, this indicates that air exchange is minimal and that you should start the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Teach your family the universal choking sign--clutching the throat. Encourage everyone you know to become familiar with this sign and use it when choking.
  • To avoid breaking bones, never place your hands on the victim's breastbone or lower rib cage when performing the Heimlich maneuver.
  • If choking persists, call 911 immediately. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.
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