How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

by Diana Cooper
Knowing this simple procedure may one day save someone’s life. Learn how to do the Heimlich maneuver on children and adults (conscious and unconscious). Know what to do if the child or adult is obese or pregnant and know how you can help save your own life by doing the maneuver on yourself.

How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

Sign for choking

Grabbing the throat with one or both hands is the universal sign for choking. Other danger signs include inability to speak, weak and ineffective coughing, difficulty breathing, high-pitched or noisy breathing sounds while inhaling, bluish skin color, and loss of consciousness. Choking is especially common in children under the age of 3 and in the elderly.
Heimlich Maneuver

The Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) is recommended to help a person who is choking on a foreign object (such as food or a toy). If done correctly, abdominal thrusts force air from the lungs (creating an artificial cough) to expel the object.
How to do the Heimlich Maneuver on Children & Adults

The following is not to be used on infants under 1 years old. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Ask the person if they are choking and if they can speak.

If the child or adult is able to speak or cough forcefully, do not perform the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, stay with

How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

The Correct Position

the person and be ready to act immediately in case the person’s symptoms worsen.

Stand directly behind the person and wrap your arms around their waist. Make a fist with one hand (normally your

dominant hand is best). Place the thumb side of your fist against the person’s stomach, just above their belly button (navel) and well below their breastbone. Place your other hand over your fist.

Make quick, inward-upward thrusts with your fist. Continue doing the thrusts until the object is expelled or the person loses consciousness.

If the person expels the object, it is recommended that the person see a doctor since complications can arise.

If the person becomes unconscious, continue with the following steps.

How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

The Correct Maneuver

Lower the person to the floor (hard surface) on their back with their body straight and their arms by their side. Shout for help. Call 911.

Open the person’s mouth using the tongue-jaw lift (grasp the tongue and lower jaw between your thumb and fingers and lift the lower jaw).

If the person is 8 years old or older, do a finger sweep to feel for an object in their mouth. If the object is visible and loose, carefully remove it.

For children under 8 years old, do not do a finger sweep. Only remove the object if it is visible.

If you do not see an object to remove, check to see if the person is breathing. Tilt their head back by lifting their chin with one hand and pushing down their forehead with your other hand. Look for chest movement and listen and feel for air against your cheek.

How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

Position for Children

If the child or adult is not breathing, attempt rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth).

If their airway remains blocked, straddle the person’s thighs, place the heel of one hand above their belly button (well below the breastbone), and give 6-10 abdominal thrusts (pressing into the stomach with quick, inward-upward thrusts).

Repeat the sequence until the object is removed or medical help arrives: Look in the mouth for the object, do a finger sweep (if 8 years or older), attempt rescue breathing, perform abdominal thrusts.

If the object is removed and the person is still unresponsive, begin CPR.
How to do the Heimlich Maneuver on Children & Adults who are Obese or Pregnant

How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

Maneuver for children

Instead of wrapping your arms around the person’s waist, wrap them around their chest. Place your fist on the middle part of their breastbone (between their nipples). Make firm, backward thrusts. Chest thrusts should also be used if unconscious.

How to do the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself

Do not panic. Call 911, even if you can’t speak (dispatchers may be able to trace calls on land-lines).

Place your fist (thumb side) above your belly button (below the breastbone), grasp your fist with your other hand, and press into your stomach with quick, inward-upward thrusts. If pregnant or obese, do chest thrusts.

You can also lean over the back of a chair and press your stomach against the edge to produce a quick, inward-upward thrust.
Conclusion

The above information can be helpful, but I highly recommend you learn the Heimlich maneuver and CPR in a certified first-aid training course. Visit the American Heart Association to find a class near you.

Share this information with friends and family so they will know how to do the Heimlich maneuver.
References

How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

Grabbing the throat with one or both hands is the universal sign for choking. Other danger signs include inability to speak, weak and ineffective coughing, difficulty breathing, high-pitched or noisy breathing sounds while inhaling, bluish skin color, and loss of consciousness. Choking is especially common in children under the age of 3 and in the elderly.

Heimlich Maneuver

The Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) is recommended to help a person who is choking on a foreign object (such as food or a toy). If done correctly, abdominal thrusts force air from the lungs (creating an artificial cough) to expel the object.

How to do the Heimlich Maneuver on Children & Adults

The following is not to be used on infants under 1 years old. Click on images to enlarge.

Step 1

Ask the person if they are choking and if they can speak.

If the child or adult is able to speak or cough forcefully, do not perform the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, stay with the person and be

ready to act immediately in case the person’s symptoms worsen.

Step 2

Stand directly behind the person and wrap your arms around their waist. Make a fist with one hand (normally your dominant hand is best). Place the thumb side of your fist against the person’s stomach, just above their belly button (navel) and well below their breastbone. Place your other hand over your fist.

Step 3

Make quick, inward-upward thrusts with your fist. Continue doing the thrusts until the object is expelled or the person loses consciousness.

If the person expels the object, it is recommended that the person see a doctor since complications can arise.

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If the person becomes unconscious, continue with the following steps.

Step 4

Lower the person to the floor (hard surface) on their back with their body straight and their arms by their side. Shout for help. Call 911.

Step 5

Open the person’s mouth using the tongue-jaw lift (grasp the tongue and lower jaw between your thumb and fingers and lift the lower jaw).

If the person is 8 years old or older, do a finger sweep to feel for an object in their mouth. If the object is visible and loose, carefully remove it.

For children under 8 years old, do not do a finger sweep. Only remove the object if it is visible.

Step 6

If you do not see an object to remove, check to see if the person is breathing. Tilt their head back by lifting their chin with one hand and pushing down their forehead with your other hand. Look for chest movement and listen and feel for air against your cheek.

If the child or adult is not breathing, attempt rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth).

Step 7

If their airway remains blocked, straddle the person’s thighs, place the heel of one hand above their belly button (well below the breastbone), and give 6-10 abdominal thrusts (pressing into the stomach with quick, inward-upward thrusts).

Step 8

Repeat the sequence until the object is removed or medical help arrives: Look in the mouth for the object, do a finger sweep (if 8 years or older), attempt rescue breathing, perform abdominal thrusts.

Step 9

If the object is removed and the person is still unresponsive, begin CPR.

How to do the Heimlich Maneuver on Children & Adults who are Obese or Pregnant

Instead of wrapping your arms around the person’s waist, wrap them around their chest. Place your fist on the middle part of their breastbone (between their nipples). Make firm, backward thrusts. Chest thrusts should also be used if unconscious.

How to do the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself

Do not panic. Call 911, even if you can’t speak (dispatchers may be able to trace calls on land-lines).

Place your fist (thumb side) above your belly button (below the breastbone), grasp your fist with your other hand, and press into your stomach with quick, inward-upward thrusts. If pregnant or obese, do chest thrusts.

You can also lean over the back of a chair and press your stomach against the edge to produce a quick, inward-upward thrust.

Conclusion

The above information can be helpful, but I highly recommend you learn the Heimlich maneuver and CPR in a certified first-aid training course. Visit the American Heart Association to find a class near you.

Share this information with friends and family so they will know how to do the Heimlich maneuver.

There are four ways to perform the Heimlich maneuver, depending on the age and needs of the choking person. The underlying action with each approach is the same: using the muscles of the diaphragm to force the object out of the throat.

Conscious adult or child

If the adult or child over the age of 1 is conscious but cannot speak, cough, or breathe, perform the Heimlich maneuver immediately, following these steps:

  1. Stand behind the person who is choking, arms wrapped around their waist.
  2. Make one hand into a fist. Position the thumb side of the fist against the person’s stomach, below their ribs and above the belly button. It is possible to feel the diaphragm muscle.
  3. Put the other hand over the fist and push into this muscle with a rapid, forceful, upward thrust.
  4. Continue abdominal thrusts until the object comes out.

Unconscious adult or child

If the child or adult is unconscious or cannot sit or stand, perform these steps:

  1. Position the choking person flat on their back.
  2. Sit on the person’s thighs, facing toward them
  3. Place one hand on top of the other, and then position the heel of the hand over their diaphragm, just below their rib cage and above their belly button.
  4. Lean onto the hands, pushing up and in.
  5. Continue repeating thrusts until the object is coughed out.

Performing Heimlich on yourself

If you choke while alone, or when there is no one to help, do the following:

  1. Make a fist, and with thumbs pointing inward, position the fist against the diaphragm – under the rib cage and above the navel.
  2. Push in and up until the object is expelled.
  3. If unable to do this or it does not work lean over a solid object, such as a counter or chair. Position the edge at the diaphragm to push in and up. Move slightly forward and backward to produce thrusts.
  4. Repeat until the object is dislodged.

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How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

Choking occurs when a person’s airway becomes blocked by food or another foreign object. When this happens, the choking victim will be unable to breath normally and is at risk of suffocating. When treating a choking victim, the first goal is to remove the obstruction to restore normal breathing function.

Thousands of choking deaths occur each year. While choking can happen to anyone, young children and the elderly are at increased risk.

Signs of Choking

Choking can be a serious emergency. Because of this, it is important to quickly recognize the signs of choking and take appropriate action.

A conscious choking victim may clutch their throat with their hands. This is a universal signal and is easy to recognize. However, if the person does not give this signal, look for other signs:

  • Difficulty speaking. If someone is choking, they will be unable to speak.
  • Coughing or wheezing. Sometimes, a choking victim will cough of wheeze excessively. This happens when the airway is only partially obstructed. Pay attention to the victim’s breathing; if coughing or wheezing suddenly stop, it may mean that their airway is now fully obstructed and they need immediate help. On the other hand, if the victim is coughing forcefully, allow them to cough, because it may help clear the obstruction.
  • Changes in skin color. For instance, the skin, lips, and nails may change to a pale or bluish color, indicating a lack of oxygen in the blood.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Performing First Aid on a Choking Victim

There are several techniques that can be used to help a choking victim. However, which ones you should use depend on a number of factors. For example, is the person conscious, or unconscious? Are they a child or infant? Are they pregnant or obese? Consider these factors when performing first aid.

How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

Heimlich Maneuver – How to help someone who is choking.

First Aid on a Conscious Choking Victim

Determine if Victim Needs Aid

You must obtain permission before providing any First Aid. If your victim is choking, ask them “Are you choking?” followed by “Can you speak?” If they can speak, encourage them to cough to relieve the obstruction without assistance If they can not speak, the obstruction is significant and assistance may be necessary.

Get Permission to Assist

Tell the victim: “I’ve been trained, I’m going to help you”. If they allow you to assist them then perform the Heimlich Maneuver. If they push you away or don’t allow you to assist, call 911. Without air moving, your victim will become unconscious within minutes. Consent is not required on an unconscious victim.

Heimlich Maneuver

The Heimlich Maneuver (aka Abdominal thrusts) is the most common first aid technique for choking. However, it is important to note that this technique is used on conscious victims only. To perform abdominal thrusts:

  • Stand behind the person and place one foot ahead of the other for balance.
    • If the choking victim is a child, crouch or kneel behind them and keep your head on their shoulder.
    • Note: If the person is overweight or pregnant, position your hands higher, around their breastbone.

    It is important to know when to call for an ambulance. If you are the only rescuer on the scene, try to use 6-10 abdominal thrusts before calling 911. But if you’re not alone, have someone else call for an ambulance while you perform first aid. Also, call 911 if the victim becomes unresponsive at any point.

    First Aid using Back Blows

    Back blows are another technique you can use to help a choking victim. Typically, we do not teach back blows in our classes. It’s important to note, if done incorrectly, back blows can cause the obstruction to worsen. To perform back blows correctly:

    • Stand to the side of and slightly behind the choking victim.
    • Keep one arm around their waist for support and have them bend over at the waist at a 90-degree angle (important).
    • Firmly deliver several blows to the center of the victim’s back. You should aim for the area in between their shoulder blades using the palm of your hand.

    The jolt of the back blow can help to free the foreign object. When helping a choking victim, try to alternate between 5 abdominal thrusts and 5 back blows. However, if you only know how to do abdominal thrusts, stick with those.

    First Aid for a Choking infant

    If an infant is choking you can attempt to dislodge the object by doing the following:

    • Support the child’s head and neck firmly.
    • Perform back blows in between the shoulder blades.
    • Perform Chest Thrusts by pushing on their chest with two or three fingers. You’ll want to push down about one and a half inches.
    • Alternate between 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts.
    • If you cannot get the object dislodged, or the victim falls unconscious or turns blue, call 911 or have someone else call if it hasn’t been done yet.

    Be careful what infants eat or can put in their mouths. Because most child choking incidents are preventable.

    Treating an Unconscious Victim

    As stated before, if a choking victim has fallen unconscious or become unresponsive at any point, make sure that an ambulance or 911 has been called. After that:

    How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

    The Heimlich maneuver is a lifesaving, emergency response performed on someone who is choking. The method is meant to dislodge food or another object that is blocking a person’s airway. Choking can happen at any age as children can choke on a toy or food and adults are likely to choke on food or breathing in fumes. There are red flags that signal someone is choking, and different techniques for intervention depending on the individual’s age and level of consciousness.

    Signs That Someone is Choking

    There are certain behaviors that someone exhibits when they are choking and unable to breathe. A person who is choking may display an inability to:

    • Speak
    • Cough
    • Make noise
    • Breathe

    What causes choking?

    Choking is caused when a piece of food, object or liquid becomes lodged in the throat and blocks the airway.

    Common objects that children choke on:

    • Popcorn
    • Candy
    • Pencil erasers
    • Hot dogs
    • Chewing gum
    • Peanuts
    • Cherry tomatoes
    • Whole grapes
    • Large pieces of fruit
    • Large pieces of vegetables

    Adults generally choke when they swallow food without properly chewing or when they swallow while laughing or drinking.

    The Red Cross Organization has outlined the appropriate steps to take when someone is choking. These guidelines are laid out depending on age and the persons level of consciousness. The first step is to check out the scene and determine if the person is injured or ill. For children and infants, consent must be attained from the parent or guardian.

    For Conscious Choking

    The Individual Cannot Cough, Speak, Cry or Breathe

    1. For an adult, child and infant, start with five back blows.
    2. Give five abdominal thrusts (give chest thrusts for an infant).
    3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until the:
      • Object is forced out.
      • Person can cough forcefully or breathe.
      • Person becomes unconscious.

    If the person becomes unconscious, gently lower them to the ground and give CARE for unconscious choking, beginning with looking for the object. Also, confirm that 9-1-1 has been called.

    For Unconscious Choking

    The Individual Appears to be Unconscious/ Non-Responsive

    1. For an adult, check responsiveness by tapping their shoulder and asking, “Are you okay?”
    2. If no response, call 9-1-1. Roll the person face-up if they are face-down.
    3. Tilt the head and lift the chin, quickly checking for a breath (gasps do not equal breathing).
    4. If No Breathing: Begin CPR. If Breathing: maintain open airway and monitor.

    Chest Does Not Rise with Rescue Breaths

    1. Retilt the head and give another rescue breath.
    2. If chest continues to not rise, give 30 chest compressions.
    3. Look for and remove and object if it can be seen.
    4. Give 2 rescue breaths and determine if the chest is rising. If no rise, repeat steps 2 through 4. If chest does rise, check for breathing.

    Adult CPR: No Breathing

    1. Give 30 chest compressions. Push hard in the middle of the chest at least 2 inches deep and at least 100 compressions per minute.
    2. Give 2 rescue breaths. Tilt the head back and lift the chin up. Pinch the nose shut and make a complete seal over the person’s mouth. Blow for about 1 second to make the chest rise. If chest does not rise, retilt the head and give another rescue breath.
    3. Do Not Stop. Continue CPR until:
      • The person shows signs of recovery, such as breathing.
      • An AED is ready to use.
      • Emergency Personnel arrive and can continue with care.
      • You are too exhausted to continue.
      • The scene becomes unsafe.

    If an AED is available, follow the easy automated instructions to use the device.

    How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a Child

    When a child between the ages of one and twelve are choking, there are special considerations to take and steps to follow when performing the Heimlich maneuver. Children may turn grey or blue due to an obstructed airway with the inability to talk, couch or breathe.

    If the child is unconscious, start CPR.

    If the Child is Conscious but Not Breathing:

    1. Get the Child into Position. With the child facing down on your forearm with their body supported on your thigh. Keep the child’s torso higher than the head.
    2. Give Forceful Blows. Use the heel of your hand to thump the child in between the shoulder blades up to five times.
    3. Turn the Child Over. Turn the child face up and keep supporting the head and neck. If the object is not out yet, continue to step 4.
    4. Press the Chest. Place the child on a firm surface (can be your forearm). Put two to three fingers in the center of the child’s breastbone and push quickly up to five times. Repeat until the object comes out. If the child continues to not breathe and is unconscious, open the airway by putting your thumb in the child’s mouth and grasping the lower incisors or gums. Look for the object then but do not do a finger sweep as you could further lodge the object deeper into the child’s throat.
    5. If Needed, Start Child CPR. Please find a reference for proper administration of child CPR.

    How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself

    If you find yourself choking and you remain conscious, locate a stable surface such as a table or chair. Press against your abdomen in the same place you would on another person (below the chest bone and above the navel). Thrust your body inward and upward in a quick motion. Continue until the object is dislodged.

    While it is frightening to be in a situation where someone is choking, providing some sort of intervention is better than nothing. The least one can do is call 9-1-1 and try to practice the skills documented here that were obtained from prestigious medical websites such as the Red Cross, Healthline and WebMd. There are many educational videos online as well for visual learners.

    A person who is choking cannot talk, cough, or breathe, and may turn gray or blue. The Heimlich maneuver can help get the food or object out. WARNING: Do not try the Heimlich maneuver unless you are sure the person is choking.

    If the person can cough or make sounds, let him or her cough to try to get the object out. If you are worried about the person’s breathing, call 911 .

    If the person can’t breathe, cough, or make sounds, then:

    • Stand or kneel behind the person and wrap your arms around his or her waist. If the person is standing, place one of your legs between his or her legs so you can support the person if he or she faints.
    • Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your fist against the person’s belly, just above the belly button but well below the breastbone. See picture A.
    • Grasp your fist with the other hand. Give a quick upward thrust into the belly. This may cause the object to pop out. You may need to use more force for a large person and less for a child or small adult. See picture B.
    • Repeat thrusts until the object pops out or the person faints.

    How to do the heimlich maneuver on an unconscious adult

    Related Information

    Credits

    Current as of: February 26, 2020

    Author: Healthwise Staff
    Medical Review:
    William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
    Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine
    Kathleen Romito MD – Family Medicine

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]magine you’re having a meal in a nice restaurant or you’re having dinner with your family. Suddenly, your partner or a nearby person chokes their own food. What do you do?

    A person can only survive a few minutes without oxygen. After that, the brain dies. This is a common scenario even among small children who put various things inside their mouth, such as tiny toys, or whatever they can find on the ground.

    Calling 911 means you have to wait on average more than 6 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. The main objective of this article is to prepare you for a chocking incident with a simple but lifesaving procedure which you can perform in a short period of time when someone is choking. It’s called the Heimlich maneuver.

    The Severity of Choking…..

    Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in USA. More than 1 million people around the world die of choking per year. In USA, a child dies every 5 minutes from choking.

    Most adults choke while eating. Meat and fish are the main source, but other foods like vegetables and fruits and various other materials like glass balls, round objects, soft toys can be the culprit too, but typically only with in younger children and adults with mental challenges.

    For years, people have tried various methods to help choking victims. Back blows, chest thrusts and attempting to use one’s finger to extract the object from the throat, to name just a few. But the American Red Cross society and American Heart association concluded in 1985 that the Heimlich maneuver is the best way to give first aid in a choking situation.

    Back blows, abdominal thrusts and finger sweeping can be dangerous to the victim, even lethal. They should only be done by experts. A back slap can dislodge and move the foreign object further down the trachea (Windpipe) and can cause complete obstruction of the trachea, resulting in a quick death by suffocation.

    The Heimlich Maneuver – a Gift From God

    The late Dr. Henry Heimlich was a reputable US surgeon who introduced this unique technique in the late 1970s, and since then this procedure has saved millions of lives worldwide.

    Anatomical Basis of the Heimlich Maneuver

    Humans have two lungs which can accommodate large volumes of air. After full inspiration about 5 to 6 liters of air remain inside the lungs. If someone can press the lungs in a sudden and powerful pressure the air inside lungs will squeeze out through the windpipe thus expelling the foreign object.

    The lungs are protected by the rib cage, therefore we can’t just use our hands to press them. But when pressing the abdomen, the pressure inside it rises and it’s transmitted to the thorax or chest cavity through the diaphragm. So the lungs can be squeezed via the abdomen.

    This procedure should be done with a lot of force and should be repeated until the foreign body is expelled.

    Identifying a Choking Victim

    It is essential to recognize the victim who is choking early on. The first thing you will see is them in an uncomfortable position. Most experience pain, but it may be some other condition like heart attack, stroke, fainting attack or a seizure.

    You may see the victim is gasping for breath often holding the neck with both hands and, the neck bending forward. The victim may soon become pink or unconscious. There might be vigorous coughs. Occasionally, you may hear a whistling sound which, in medical terms, is called a stridor.

    It may be a complete obstruction in the windpipe or a partial obstruction.

    In a partial obstruction, the victim can talk or breathe and a stridor may be present.

    In a complete obstruction, the victim can’t talk nor cough and most importantly can’t breathe. You have to act quickly in a complete obstruction, if not the victim may die.

    If you carefully examine the environment you will most likely see the choking objects such as food or other foreign materials such as glass balls, soft toys, coins, insects etc.

    Awareness exercise: make it a habit to pay attention to adults or children who act weird suddenly. He or she may be choking!

    Be your own doctor post collapse. Click here

    See the following YouTube to identify choking behavior:

    The Procedure

    This Heimlich maneuver can be done even the victim is in standing position or seated position or even the victim is lying down on the floor. It can also be done on oneself in a situation of self-choking.

    But the important thing is the victim must be conscious.

    First, approach the person. Always talk to him or her and ask what the problem is:

    Can you talk? Can you cough?

    You can even ask them directly:

    Are you choking?

    The victim may nod to confirm.

    If the victim can cough or talk do not try to do the Heimlich maneuver. Do not interrupt the cough if they can speak, and encourage the coughing. With vigorous coughing, most foreign objects come out easily.

    If there are people around you, ask one of them to call 911 while you are preparing to do the Heimlich maneuver.

    If the victim cannot talk or cough but he is conscious then you can perform the Heimlich maneuver. It mainly consists of vigorous and repetitive abdominal thrusts done with the sole purpose of dislodging the foreign object and expelling it.

    Whether the person is standing or sitting, you have to go behind him to his back. Clothes need not to be removed. But if the victim is wearing a tie or any other tight accessory around the neck, you should loosen it or remove it before the procedure. If you have to, just cut the tie or other garments with a knife or a scissor. Be careful not to tighten them and do not waste time more than 15 seconds in doing this.

    Then, lean the person forward and give five blows to their back with the heel of your hand.

    After going from the behind, wrap your arms around his or her waist. Make sure to keep them tight, interlocking the fingers of each hand. Keep them in between the umbilicus (belly button) and the xiphisternum which is the lowest part of the chest (the ending point of the rib cage in front of the body). Then grasp both hands together and make a fist. Using the fist, squeeze the tummy inside and upwards.

    If the victim is lying on the floor do not try to make him or her stand. If he is lying on the back, straddle the victim facing the head, and keep your hands as mentioned above. Push the fist inward and upward and squeeze the lungs. Then most likely the foreign body should come out.

    Repeat the procedure until the victim can talk or cough on his own. Once he can cough then foreign body will come out. Encourage the victim to cough.

    When food or another foreign object becomes stuck in the airway it can cause choking. Choking prevents oxygen from getting to the lungs and the brain. Lack of oxygen to the brain for more than 4 minutes may cause brain damage or death. It is important for all people to recognize and know how to handle choking at home and in public places. Experts recommend using abdominal thrusts to treat someone who is choking.

    How can I prevent choking?

    You can prevent choking in adults by following these precautionary measures:

    Cut food into small pieces.

    Chew food slowly and thoroughly, especially if wearing dentures.

    Avoid laughing and talking while chewing and swallowing.

    Avoid excessive intake of alcohol before and during meals.

    You can prevent choking in infants and children by following these precautionary measures:

    Keep marbles, beads, thumbtacks, latex balloons, coins, and other small toys and objects out of reach, particularly in children younger than 4 years old.

    Prevent children from walking, running, or playing when they have food and toys in their mouth.

    Youngsters under the age of 4 should not be fed foods that can easily become lodged in the throat, such as hot dogs, nuts, chunks of meat or cheese, grapes, hard or sticky candy, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, or raw carrots.

    Supervise mealtimes with young children.

    Prevent older siblings from giving a dangerous food or toy to a young child.

    What is the recommended first-aid technique for choking?

    A series of under-the-diaphragm abdominal thrusts are recommended for a person who is choking on a piece of food or a foreign object. This technique is used only when a person is choking due to something blocking the airway. Choking is when a person can’t speak, cough, or breathe. An airway obstruction can lead to a loss of consciousness and death. When applying the abdominal thrusts, be careful not to use too much force so you don’t damage the ribs or internal organs. Only use abdominal thrusts on a conscious person if “back slaps” fail to relieve the airway obstruction. If the person is unconscious, use chest compressions.

    Abdominal thrusts lift the diaphragm and forces enough air from the lungs to create an artificial cough. This cough is intended to move air through the windpipe, pushing, and expelling the obstruction out of the airway and mouth:

    Reach around the person’s waist.

    Position one clenched fist above the navel and below the rib cage.

    Grasp your fist with your other hand. Pull the clenched fist sharply and directly backward and upward under the rib cage 6 to 10 times quickly.

    If the person is obese or in late pregnancy, give chest compressions.

    Continue uninterrupted until the obstruction is relieved or advanced life support is available. In either case, the person should be examined by a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

    Abdominal thrusts can be painful and even injure the person. Only use abdominal thrusts in actual emergencies, when it is certain that the person is choking. Use this method only in adults.

    A different technique is used in infants and small children. Discuss the proper first-aid choking technique for your child with his or her healthcare provider.

    How can I learn the right way to help someone who is choking?

    Using abdominal thrusts is simple to learn and is often taught during first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) classes. Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross or American Heart Association or contact your local hospital or healthcare facility for a class schedule and more information.

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