A dangerous choking incident can happen in an instant. Choking victims cannot speak or breathe, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and take quick action. Someone who is choking has about four minutes before they are at risk of brain damage, or worse. Knowing the proper way to perform the Heimlich Maneuver (also known as abdominal thrusts) can help you protect your family and guests from permanent, irreversible damage.
The Heimlich Maneuver for Conscious Adults
If the victim is still conscious and able to stand, this is the ideal position in which to perform abdominal thrusts. Have the victim stand and face away from you, then wrap your arms around their waist from behind. Then, repeat the following steps as needed:
- Make a fist and place the side with your thumb in their upper abdomen, underneath their sternum, or ribcage.
- Place your other hand around your fist for added stability and force.
- Push your fist into their abdomen with upward pressure, without squeezing the ribcage
The squeezing motion should be repeated until the object is expelled. You may hear the victim start to breathe or cough, which is a sign the airways are clearing.
What to do When the Victim is Unconscious
If you have a choking victim who is unconscious, or you are unable to place your arms around them, you can follow an alternative method for the Heimlich Maneuver:
- Lay the victim on their back on a flat surface
- Position yourself near their upper thighs with a knee on each side of the victim, facing their chest
- Place your hands together, and put the heel of the bottom hand on the victim’s chest. Your hands should be above their navel but below their ribcage.
- Push upward in quick succession, using your body weight for more force, making sure that you are not pushing on the ribcage
These steps can be repeated until the object is dislodged, or you can proceed with CPR.
Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself
If you are the one who needs assistance, it can be easy for panic to set in. However, if you can keep yourself relatively calm, you can perform abdominal thrusts on yourself if necessary using these steps:
- Make a fist and bring your hands together
- Place your fist on your upper abdomen with your thumb facing you
- Use quick, upward motions to expel the object
If this method is not successful or is too difficult for you, you can also use another horizontal object like a chair, table, or other object approximately as high as your abdomen. Press the object into your upper abdomen and use the same quick, upward motion until the obstruction is loosened and expelled.
If you need to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on an infant, you can use the same steps as an unconscious victim. The baby should be laid on its back but instead of using your open hands, you will only use your index and middle fingers to apply quick, upward pressure.
It is recommended that anyone who has had abdominal thrusts performed on them should see a physician immediately after the obstruction is expelled. The Park City Fire District is committed to keeping you safe, and knowing the Heimlich Maneuver could save someone’s life – even your own.