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Abdominal thrusts—also known as the Heimlich maneuver—can be used to expel a foreign object lodged in a choking victim’s windpipe.
Never practice the Heimlich maneuver on an infant under a year old or on a person who is not choking. You could cause serious injury.
Step 1: Confirm choking
Confirm the victim is choking. If they are coughing, they are not choking – yet – so encourage them to continue. Signs of choking include the universal hand sign of clutching one’s hands to the throat; the inability to cough or speak; labored or noisy breathing; bluish skin, lips, and nails; and loss of consciousness.
Don’t slap a coughing person on the back – it doesn’t help and can make them start to choke.
Step 2: Call 911
Once you determine the person is choking, act quickly but calmly. First, send someone to call 911.
Step 3: Help the victim stand
Help the victim stand, if they’re not already on their feet, and stand behind them with your chest to their back.
Step 4: Wrap your arms around the victim
Wrap your arms around the victim’s torso, making a fist with your dominant hand, and center it against the victim’s upper abdomen, thumb inward, above the navel and below the rib cage. With your other hand, cover your fist for support.
If you cannot reach your arms around their abdomen or if the victim is pregnant, compress their chest between the breasts at the breastbone. Make firm, backward thrusts.
Step 5: Thrust inward and upward
Quickly thrust inward and slightly upward with your fist, as if you’re trying to lift the victim off their feet, causing air to rush out of their lungs.
Don’t squeeze the rib cage as you thrust upward. Otherwise you could break a bone.
Step 6: Repeat
Repeat the thrusts until the object dislodges, or the victim loses consciousness.
Step 7: Wait for medical help
If the object does not come free and the victim loses consciousness, proceed with CPR until EMTs arrive.
Step 8: Save yourself
To perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself, lean your upper abdomen over a hard horizontal surface (such as a railing or the back of a chair) and use it to deliver strong, upward thrusts.
Did You Know?
Besides inventing the famous abdominal maneuver, Dr. Henry Heimlich also invented a chest valve that saved thousands of wounded soldiers in Vietnam.