Heimlich Maneuver

Written by Brian Krans | Published on July 21, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 21, 2014

First Aid: Heimlich Maneuver

Each year, many people die from choking on objects that obstruct their airways and cause suffocation. But there is a simple technique that can be used on both adults and children older than one year of age to help expel a trapped object.

The technique is called the “Heimlich maneuver,” or “abdominal thrusts.” Abdominal thrusts lift the diaphragm and expel air from the lungs. This causes the foreign object to be expelled from the airway.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

Determine whether you need to perform abdominal thrusts. A person who is choking may be able to dislodge the object on his or her own.

If the person is not coughing or is unable to speak, or if he or she signals for help, ask him or her stand up.

Then take the following steps:

  • Position yourself behind the person.
  • Place your arms around his or her waist.
  • Make a fist and place it just above the navel, thumb side in.
  • Grab the fist with your other hand and push it inward and upward at the same time.
  • Repeat the maneuver until the object is expelled.
  • If the person cannot stand up, straddle the person’s waist, facing the head. Push your fist inward and upward in the same manner as you would if he or she were standing.

The choking person should also seek medical help to ensure there is no physical damage to the throat and airways.

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