If you or someone else around starts showing signs of choking, you need to act fast. Choking occurs when a small foreign object gets stuck in the throat or windpipe, causing the airway to narrow. Four minutes with no oxygen following a choking incident can result in asphyxia, brain damage, or death. With prompt first aid techniques and knowledge of the Heimlich Maneuver, you can save lives.
What is the Heimlich Maneuver?
Heimlich Maneuver is a first-aid procedure used to help a conscious choking person who has trouble breathing. This technique pushes the air out of the person’s lungs, causing them to cough. The force of the cough will help move the foreign object out of the airway.
Here are some quick facts on Heimlich Maneuver:
- A choking person cannot inhale or exhale air. Hence, it is not possible to cough the object out during choking.
- They didn’t create a research-based strategy to manage choking symptoms until the 1970s.
- The Heimlich Maneuver should only be carried out on choking emergencies.
- The Heimlich Maneuver is applied for conscious adults, while chest compressions are recommended for unconscious patients.
- Different techniques of maneuver have been developed to accommodate all victim types.
The Heimlich maneuver, otherwise known as the abdominal thrust maneuver, is commonly taught during basic life support (BLS) and advanced first aid classes. Although this technique is known to save lives and is generally safe, it can cause further harm if not performed correctly. To avoid that, all first aiders should be familiar with how to perform Heimlich Maneuver safely.
Step-by-Step Guide for the Heimlich Maneuver
- First things first, check the person’s condition and determine if you need to intervene. If the person is conscious or breathing, they may be able to dispel or remove the object on their own. Give them a few seconds (or tries) to work the object out without your help. If they are unable to dispel it and their condition worsens, proceed with step two.
- Call Triple Zero (000) or instruct someone nearby to do it for you. If you are in a public setting and not alone, it is best to have someone call emergency services as you attend to the victim. Even if the person recovers and regains their best self, it is best to seek a professional assessment from trained personnel. The person may suffer from throat damage due to temporary airway obstruction, so a professional assessment is a wise decision.
- Have the person in a standing position if you perform the Heimlich Maneuver. Stand behind the person and lean them forward.
- Once positioned, give five blows to the person’s back with the heel of your hand. If the back blows did not dislodge the object, proceed to the next step.
- Wrap your hands above the belly button with your thumb facing toward the victim’s body. Using your arms, firmly push inward and upward on the abdomen about five times. This step is called ‘abdomen thrusts.’
- Continue the cycle of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the object is expelled or the person can breathe or cough again.
(Note that the instructions above only apply to conscious adults and do not apply to pregnant women, obese adults, infants, and even to yourself.)
We may find ourselves or others in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation at some point in our lives. Understanding the very basics of first aid could save the lives of others and yours.
All life is worth saving, and knowing Heimlich Maneuver will give you the confidence to become an everyday hero.