How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver: A First Aid Must-Know

The Heimlich maneuver, also known as abdominal thrusts, is a critical first aid technique used to help someone who is choking on a foreign object lodged in their throat. Knowing how to perform the Heimlich maneuver can save a life. In this guide, we'll explain the steps for performing the Heimlich maneuver on adults and infants.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on an Adult:

  1. Assess the Situation:
    • Make sure the person is truly choking. Look for signs like clutching their throat, inability to speak, or difficulty breathing.
  2. Stand Behind the Person:
    • Position yourself behind the choking person, ensuring that you are taller than they are.
  3. Place Your Fist:
    • Form a fist with one hand and place the thumb side against the middle of the person's abdomen, just above the navel.
  4. Grasp with Your Other Hand:
    • Use your other hand to grasp your fist firmly.
  5. Perform Quick Abdominal Thrusts:
    • In a rapid, upward motion, apply firm pressure to the person's abdomen. The goal is to force the object out with the force of your thrusts.
    • Perform these thrusts until the object is expelled or the person can breathe, cough, or speak on their own.
  6. Monitor the Person:
    • After successful removal of the object, closely monitor the person's condition. Seek medical attention to ensure there are no internal injuries caused by the Heimlich maneuver.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on an Infant (Under 1 Year Old):

Choking in infants requires a different approach due to their small size and fragility:

  1. Assess the Situation:
    • Check if the infant is truly choking. Look for signs like difficulty breathing, inability to cry, or a weak cry.
  2. Hold the Infant:
    • Sit down and place the infant face-down on your forearm, supporting their head and neck with your hand and their body on your thigh.
  3. Deliver Back Blows:
    • Using the heel of your free hand, give the infant up to five back blows between their shoulder blades, using a firm but gentle force. Check the mouth after each blow to see if the object has been dislodged.
  4. Perform Chest Thrusts:
    • If back blows do not work, turn the infant over onto their back while still supporting the head and neck.
    • Use two or three fingers to deliver chest thrusts to the center of the infant's chest, just below the nipple line. Push down about 1.5 inches (about 4 cm).
    • Perform up to five chest thrusts, checking the mouth for the object between each thrust.
  5. Call for Help:
    • If the object is still lodged or the infant becomes unconscious, call 911 or emergency services.
  6. Continue Cycles:
    • Continue cycles of back blows and chest thrusts until the object is expelled, the infant can breathe, or help arrives.

Safety Precautions:

  • Do not perform the Heimlich maneuver on a person who can cough forcefully or is still able to breathe, as this could worsen the situation.
  • Always call 911 or seek medical help if the choking person's condition does not improve or they become unconscious.
  • Be cautious when performing abdominal thrusts or chest thrusts, as excessive force can cause injury. Use firm but controlled pressure.

Knowing how to perform the Heimlich maneuver is a valuable first aid skill that can help save lives in choking emergencies. It's essential to stay calm, act quickly, and seek professional medical evaluation even after successful removal of the object to ensure the person's well-being.

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