Empowering Yourself to Be a Lifesaver!
Choking is a common emergency that can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. When a person is choking, their airway is partially or completely blocked by food, drink, or other objects, which can lead to suffocation and even death if not treated promptly and properly. Therefore, it’s important to know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, a first-aid technique that can help dislodge the obstruction and restore breathing. In this blog post, we’ll explain what the Heimlich maneuver is, when and how to use it, and what to do if it doesn’t work.
What is the Heimlich maneuver?
The Heimlich maneuver, also known as abdominal thrusts, is a technique that uses pressure to force air out of the lungs and push the object out of the airway. It was named after its inventor, Dr. Henry Heimlich, who first described it in 1974 as a way to save choking victims. The Heimlich maneuver works by creating a sudden increase in intra-abdominal pressure, which compresses the lungs and diaphragm and expels the air upwards, dislodging the object in the process.
When should the Heimlich maneuver be used?
The Heimlich maneuver is indicated for conscious adults and children (over 1 year old) who are choking and unable to speak, cough, or breathe normally. The signs of choking include hands clutched to the throat, blue lips or face, inability to make sounds, and gasping for air. If you suspect that someone is choking, ask them if they need help and if they can cough or talk. If they nod or shake their head, encourage them to keep coughing and don’t intervene. If they can’t respond or their coughing becomes weak or silent, act quickly and call 911 or the local emergency number before performing the Heimlich maneuver.
How is the the Heimlich maneuver performed?
To perform the Heimlich maneuver, follow these steps:
1. Stand or kneel behind the choking person and wrap your arms around their waist.
2. Make a fist with one hand and place it just above their navel, thumb side in.
3. Grasp the fist with your other hand and press inward and upward with quick, forceful thrusts.
4. Repeat until the object is expelled or the person becomes unconscious.
5. If the person becomes unconscious, lower them gently to the ground and start CPR if you know how to do it.
*If the choking person is pregnant, obese, or in a wheelchair, place your hands higher, just under the breastbone, and press inward and upward. If the choking person is an infant (under 1 year old), support their head and neck with one hand and place the other hand and two fingers on the breastbone just below the nipples. Give up to 5 back blows and up to 5 chest thrusts alternately until the object is expelled or the infant becomes unconscious.
What if you are alone and choking?
If are choking and need the Heimlich maneuver, but you are alone and there is no one around to help, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself by following these steps:
- Dial 911 on your phone OR click the emergency feature on your smartwatch if you have one. Even if you are unable to speak, as long as your location is on, emergency crews should be able to track your location.
- Make a fist with one hand and place it just above your navel, but below your ribcage.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand and press inward and upward with quick, forceful thrusts.
- Repeat until the object blocking your airway is dislodged or you become unconscious.
*Note: It’s important to note that performing the Heimlich maneuver on yourself can be difficult and may not work if you’re unable to generate enough force to dislodge the object. If you’re in a public place or with someone else, it’s always better for someone else to perform the Heimlich maneuver on you.
Additionally, it’s important to prevent choking in the first place by chewing your food thoroughly, avoiding talking or laughing while eating, and avoiding eating too quickly. If you’re prone to choking or have difficulty swallowing, talk to your doctor about ways to manage your condition.
The Heimlich maneuver is a life-saving skill that everyone should learn and practice, especially if they have children, elderly, or vulnerable people in their lives. By knowing how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, you can help prevent choking deaths and reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with this common emergency. Remember, if in doubt, call for help and don’t hesitate to use the Heimlich maneuver if you suspect that someone is choking and unable to breathe.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in Trusted Senior Specialists blog posts is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content presented on the blog is not meant to replace or override the importance of seeking medical care from qualified healthcare professionals.