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One of the most common causes of choking is talking while eating. If you feel as if food may be caught in your throat, never leave the room, stay where others can see you and help if your airway becomes blocked. Do not panic!

To help someone who is choking, Verify that the person is choking, by asking them “Are you choking?” Once you know the person is unable to cough, speak or breathe, have someone call 9-1-1 and start the Heimlich maneuver. However if the person can talk or cough just encourage them to cough out the item.

If you are alone, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself, just as you would on someone else. Thrusts can also be administered by pressing your abdomen firmly against an object such as the back of a chair, just above your belly button.


Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts)

The Heimlich maneuver (pronounced Hi-mlick) or sometimes called abdominal thrusts or J thrusts, is a procedure whereby you administer abdominal thrusts or J Thrusts to dislodge a item that is obstructing the person’s airway. The Heimlich maneuver is not meant to be used for choking infants under age one.

The idea here is to lift the diaphragm and forces air from the lungs, similar to a coughing action, so that the foreign body in an airway may be moved and expelled. If fact, you are manually coughing for the choking person.

The first thing you must do is establish that the victim is choking. The universal sign for a choking victim is both hands around the neck. You must ask the victim if he or she is choking and can you help them. At this point you must also either call 911, yourself or have someone else call 911.

There is two types of obstruction, during a choking incident; Partial and complete. If the person can cough, wheeze or talk, then this is a partial obstruction. There is nothing you can do for the victim, except encourage them to cough the item out.  If the victim cannot speak, cough, or breath, then this is a complete obstruction and you must perform the Heimlich maneuver.

The steps to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking person are:

  1. Stand behind the person, Remember that victims may panic and inadvertently strike out, so be aware.
  1. Place one of your legs between the victim’s legs. This will help you bring the victim to the floor if they become unconscious.
  2. Wrap your arms around the stomach, and tip the person slightly forward. (To clear an airway obstruction of a pregnant woman or obese person, place your fists closer to the chest, right above the joining of the ribs at the base of the breastbone, and follow the Heimlich maneuver steps.)
  1. Make a fist with one hand and place it slightly above the navel.
  2. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press forcefully into the abdomen with quick, upward thrusts, using force as if you were attempting to lift the person up.
  1. Continue the thrusts until the foreign body is dislodged or the victim become unconscious. If the person become unconscious; slide them down your leg and begin CPR.
  2. When a choking person is unconscious, floor. Clear the airway using the head-tilt method. If you can see the blockage, reach a finger into the mouth and sweep it out (finger sweep), using caution not to push the object deeper into the airway. If you are unable to remove the obstructing object and the person doesn't respond, you must begin CPR. In this case, there is a chance that the chest compressions used in CPR will free the object so recheck the mouth at regular intervals.



  1. Back Blows. Most professionals disagree on this aspect, how ever HE Safety Consultants recommend that you do not slap the victim on the back. Dislodging the airway obstruction while the victim is upright could result in a deeper obstruction (gravity will pull it down).
  2. In the case of a choking infant younger than age one, sit with the infant face down on your forearm, positioned securely on your thigh. Thump the infant firmly and gently five times with the heel of your hand in the middle of the back. The back blows and the gravity will most likely free the obstruction. If it doesn't work, turn the infant face up on your forearm, head lower than body, and use two fingers positioned over the center of the breastbone just below the nipples and give five quick chest compressions. Continue to repeat the back blows and chest thrusts until EMS arrives.  If you have cleared the obstruction and the infant doesn't start breathing, begin infant CPR. In babies older than age one, only give abdominal thrusts.