Heimlich Maneuver Holiday Refresher--5 Steps

In the midst of the holiday season, with many family and friend get-togethers, which include our favorite holiday feasting, it’s a great time for a quick refresher on performing the Heimlich maneuver on adults and children over the age of one.

The Heimlich maneuver, also referred to as abdominal thrusts, is a First Aid procedure to assist someone with an upper airway obstruction (or choking) by a foreign object. In 1974, Dr. Henry Heimlich, an American surgeon and medical researcher, began to promote the procedure to stop people from choking. The maneuver exerts pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm, then compresses the lungs forcing pressure on object stuck in the trachea, then expelling it.  

According to Statista, in 2017, there were approximately 5,200 choking deaths in the United States. Sadly, food is often responsible for choking incidents in the elderly, as dentures and dental appliances, difficulties associated with swallowing, and living alone increases the risk. In children food and toys will small removable parts cause most incidents of choking.

Here are 5 simple steps to perform if someone is choking

1. Always get the choking person’s permission to assist them by asking, “Are you choking?” If they signal to you they are, then proceed with the following.

2. Stand behind the choking person.

3. Make a fist and place your thumb against the person’s upper abdomen, below the rib cage, above the belly button.

4. Place your other hand around your fist, applying a quick upward thrust, pressing into their abdomen. 

5. Repeat until the object is expelled. 

If the choking person is pregnant or overweight, safely place your fist higher on their chest to where the breastbone and the ribs meet,  avoid squeezing the ribs with your arms.

If at any time, the choking person becomes unresponsive, lower them safely to the ground and check their airway, removing any object that is easily removable and viewable, do not perform a blind finger sweep. Dial 9-1-1 and perform CPR, if necessary.

Home alone? You can perform the maneuver on yourself by bending over a chair, couch, table or counter at waist height. Put your fist against your chest, wrapping your other hand around it, at the same time leaning over the edge of the chair, table or counter, and creating increased pressure on your hand and fist lock until the object is forced out.

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