GEMCH Blog

What is the Heimlich Maneuver?

Know How to Administer First Aid on a Choking Person

According to the National Safety Council, choking has been recently reported as the fourth leading cause of unintentional deaths among adults and children. While food is the most common culprit for adults, especially for seniors, any small objects can be responsible for choking incidents in children. When you see an individual clutching their throat, having difficulty breathing or speaking with their skin and lips turning blue, it is important to administer first aid as soon as possible.

The Heimlich maneuver or the “abdominal thrusts” is the most common first aid procedure performed on choking victims to dislodge the foreign object from their airway.

Here are the steps to administering this life-saving procedure:

  • Carefully hold the victim in a standing position
  • Stand behind them and wrap your arms around the waist of the victim
  • Tip the person slightly forward
  • Ball one hand into a fist and position it just below the victim’s ribcage and above the navel
  • Hold or grasp your fist with your other hands and press it inward and upward at the same time
  • Perform the abdominal thrust for a total of five times, if needed

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a Child

Young children are known to put everything and anything inside their mouths, especially small objects. If your child is older than one and is choking, it is safe to perform the Heimlich maneuver as you would an adult. However, if your infant child under the age of one is choking, the procedure is changed.

Heimlich maneuver for babies younger than one:

  • Put the baby facedown on your forearm with their heads tilted lower than the chest. Make sure their neck and chin are supported
  • With the heel of your hand, give quick slaps to the back between the shoulder blades for five times
  • If the foreign object was not dislodged, turn the child over and place them face up on a flat surface
  • Position two to three fingers on your baby’s chest, just below the nipple level or in the middle of the breastbone and give five quick thrusts
  • Repeat the back slaps and chest thrusts until the object pops out

What to Do If You Choke While Eating Alone?

Choking while eating alone is not uncommon. In fact, many choking incidents in adults has happened because no one is around to administer first aid to them. If you find yourself choking while eating alone, know that it is possible to do the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.

Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Make a fist with one hand and position this with your thumb just below your ribcage and above the navel
  • Hold or grasp the fist with your other hand and thrust quickly with an inward and upwards motion

If the food does not pop out, you may also try leaning over the sink or the edge of a table and press your upper belly area vigorously against them until your airway has cleared.

The Heimlich maneuver is a very important first-aid skill to acquire. It can save thousands of lives including your own. However, learning the steps is just one part of it. To give you a better feel of the process, you may also want to practice on another person so you can perform it correctly in a real crisis.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare providers.

Categories: Prevention