Stop Choking with the Heimlich Maneuver
The Heimlich Maneuver, is a first aid procedure for clearing an obstructed
airway. A person performing the Heimlich maneuver uses their hands to exert
pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm. This compresses the lungs and exerts
pressure on any object lodged in the trachea, hopefully expelling it.
The Heimlich maneuver is named after Henry Heimlich, who first described it
in 1974. Until 2005, the Heimlich maneuver was the recommended treatment for
choking. However, even when performed correctly, the Heimlich Maneuver can
injure the person it is performed on. Therefore it is now recommended to first
apply backslaps; if that fails to remove the airway obstruction, then apply
abdominal thrusts. (Abdominal thrusts being differentiated from the Heimlich
maneuver by being performed in a way that does not injure the victim.)
The Heimlich Maneuver should never be performed on someone who can still cough,
breathe, or speak. Instead bend them at the waist, head down, encourage them to
cough, and deliver a series of thumps between their shoulder blades using a flat palm.
Indications that someone is choking:
- The person cannot speak or cry out.
- The person's face turns blue from lack of oxygen.
- The person desperately grabs at his or her throat.
- The person has a weak cough, and labored breathing produces a high-pitched noise.
- The person does any or all of the above, then becomes unconscious.