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Choking: The Heimlich Maneuver

Credit: The Mayo Clinic

Every year, many people die from choking-induced suffocation. The Heimlich Maneuver is an important skill to know and can truly be the difference in saving a life. The Heimlich Maneuver utilizes abdominal thrusts to expel air from the lungs and remove foreign objects that are in the airway. Knowing this technique is another way that you can be prepared to help those around you in an emergency situation.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver

  1. Before performing the Heimlich Maneuver, you must quickly assess the situation. You do not want to perform the Heimlich Maneuver if someone is actively trying to cough out the foreign object. If they are not breathing at all, nor coughing, or have their hands around their throat, then you must act quickly. If the person who is choking is pregnant, or if it is an infant that is choking, do not do the Heimlich Maneuver as it is normally performed. These individuals require a different method. These steps will be covered below.
  2. If someone is with you, have them call 911. If you are alone, administer first aid quickly.
  3. Make the person stand up. This may be difficult, but they need to be standing to properly perform the maneuver.
  4. Standing behind the individual, lean them forward, and use the heel (the part of the palm underneath of the pinky) to deliver five blows to the back.
  5. Next, wrap your arm around their waist, and make a fist just above the naval (bellybutton) with your thumb on the inside.
  6. Grab the fist with the other hand and push inward and upward at the same time.
  7. Keep pushing until the object is expelled and the person can breathe without aid.

Aiding a Pregnant Woman

If the choking individual is pregnant, move your hand a bit higher up to the base of the sternum (breastbone). If they are unconscious, put her on her back and use a sweeping motion of the fingers to clear the airway. If you cannot dislodge the foreign object, it is necessary, then, to begin performing CPR.

Aiding an Infant

  1. Rest your forearm on your thigh and support the infant face down on your forearm.
  2. Using the same part of your hand as you would for an adult, the heel, deliver five gentle back blows.
  3. Move the infant so that they are face up positioned on your forearm and thigh with their head below the torso.
  4. Place two fingers below the sternum and perform quick chest compressions.
  5. Keep repeating these steps until the object is expelled.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself

If you are alone and choking, carry out the steps that you would perform on a normal adult, with your fists above your naval, thumb side in, and performing that same up and in thrust. You can also use a hard, sturdy object to perform the thrusts against, such as a chair or table.


After the individual’s airway is clear, seek medical attention to assess any damage to the airway.

(Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/heimlich-maneuver#videos)