Apply Heimlich Maneuver As a First Aid

Edited by Maureen D., Anonymous, Rebecca M., Lynn and 4 others

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The Heimlich Maneuver is a method that we can use to help out someone who is choking. When a person chokes on food or any other object, the airway is blocked and it makes it hard to breathe. By performing the Heimlich Maneuver as a first aid, air will be pushed out from the choking person's lungs making him or her cough out the foreign object that was lodged in the airway. Having knowledge about when and how to do the Heimlich Maneuver could help out in saving someone's precious life.

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When do we need to give the Heimlich Maneuver?

It could be performed on someone who is awake or conscious but cannot talk. If you suspect a person is choking, you may ask him "Are you choking?" If the person responds or uses affirmative body language, you can tell him or her to breathe continuously and cough in a forceful manner to attempt expelling the foreign object in his or her airway. If the person choking starts to vomit, then you can lay the person on his or her side to avoid more blockage in the airway. Call 911 right away if the person is not able to talk. The Heimlich Maneuver could be done when the medical assistance arrives.

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Factors that increase a person's risks of choking

  • Age - Children tend to put objects in their mouth that cause the choking. Older people have weakened muscles in their airways which makes them prone to choking.
  • Alcohol - Did you know that drinking alcoholic beverages decreases the ability of cough reflex, which makes it harder to clear the airway?
  • Medications - Medicines that gets people drowsy increases choking risks.
  • Medical Conditions - Persons who have illnesses like Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's have a higher risk of choking.
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Common things that block the airway

  • Nuts
  • Candies
  • Coins
  • Meats
  • Small toys
  • Liquids (water or milk)
  • Dentures (for unconscious or sleeping person)

What are the signs of choking?

  • Throat grabbing (universal sign)
  • Color change in skin, especially in the face - it turns blue as it lacks oxygen
  • Unable to cough in a forceful manner
  • Unable to speak or having trouble in speaking
  • Breathing trouble
  • Whistling or high pitched sound when breathing
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How to perform Heimlich Maneuver on children and adults

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  • The choking person can be sitting or standing. Position yourself at his or her back, wrapping your arms around their waist, and bend the person a little from the waist.
  • With your left or right hand, make a fist, and against the person's middle stomach, place your fist (thumb side). Between the belly button and the person's lowest part of the ribs, is the best position for your fist.
  • Now, bring your other hand over that fist, and while pressing both of your hands in the person's abdomen, do a quick inward and upward push. (For children, use lesser force.)
  • Perform the procedure until the person choking expels the foreign object from his or her airway.

In the event that the airway is not cleared, there is a possibility that the person may become unconscious. Ask someone to call 911 to help out while performing the Heimlich Maneuver.

  • In pregnant or overweight persons, instead of wrapping your arms around their waists, you should wrap them around their armpits. Your fist must be placed at the middle of the breastbone, but ,be careful not to slide your hands on the person's ribs. Again, place the other hand on the fist and do short pushes until the foreign object comes out of their airway.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a choking infant

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The following could be done to infants who are less than a year old. It is best to call 911 before performing these steps.

  • Take the infant, and you can sit or stand up while performing Heimlich Maneuver.
  • Face down, hold the infant with the head a little lower than the feet. The infant's jaw and head must be supported by your hand. If you are sitting, the infant's weight can be supported by your knee or forearm when you are standing up.
  • Place your hand palm down between the infant's shoulder blades and give up to five blows. The heel of the hand must be used in this procedure. Stop it as soon as you see the foreign object come out of the infant's mouth. Otherwise, head on to the next step.
  • Flip the infant over to his back; make sure to support his head and neck while doing this. Again, the infant's head must be a little lower than the head.
  • Using your fingers, give the infant up to five chest thrusts. Making sure your fingers are placed on the infant's lower half of breastbone. Quit giving chest thrusts if you see the foreign object comes out of the mouth. If not, repeat all the steps until the object comes out of the infant's mouth.

Applying Heimlich Maneuver on yourself

Yes, this procedure can be done if you are all by yourself and choking.

  • Call 911 right away but if you are unable to talk then you can leave the call connected. The foreign object can be dislodged from your airway but there is a possibility that you have damaged any of your body parts by doing the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself.
  • Just like it is done to someone else, you have to make a fist with your hand. Put your fist thumb side against your abdomen's middle part. Never let it slide anywhere else, keep it at that area only.
  • Now, place your other hand on that fist and do short thrust inward and upward. Keep doing it until the object is dislodged out of your airway.

Heimlich Maneuver is safe if applied on anyone but for infants, it could be harmful for some parts of their bodies so it is best to have them checked up by a caregiver to make sure what it is.

Heimlich Maneuver risks if not done in the right way

  • Abdominal pains
  • Vomiting
  • Ribs fracture or breaks
  • Any eye damage may occur
  • Rarely, internal organs get damaged
  • Air or fluid enters the lungs which makes it difficult for the choking person to breathe.
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What you can do to avoid airway from getting blocked?

  • Never let a child younger than 4 years old intake Tablet medicines. Syrup is always the best form.
  • By cutting food in bite size pieces especially hard to chew ones.
  • When eating, make sure to eat slowly and chew your foods well.
  • Never give children food that is hard to chew such as: peanuts, fruits with seeds, candies that take a long time to melt in their moths and a lot more.
  • Always be around children when they are playing with toys that have small detachable parts.
  • Avoid talking or laughing when eating to avoid choking.
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Questions and Answers

Do you ever do the Heimlich maneuver on someone who is not awake?

If someone is asleep and choking can you do the Heimlich maneuver on him?. I have tried: I just want to be sure in case it ever happens.. I think it was caused by: I have heard of people choking on their vomit and false or broken teeth.

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