Clinking glasses, uncontrollable laughter, an amazing variety of food. These are some of the ideas that come to mind when thinking about sharing a meal with loved ones. However, these special occasions can take an unexpected turn when a loved one begins to cough after swallowing a piece of food that is a bit too large.

A series of events of this nature can strike fear and uncertainty into those present. While calling 911 for help may be the first thought that comes to mind, it is essential to know what to do in cases in which there may not be enough time to wait for help to arrive.

This is where the Heimlich maneuver comes in. The Heimlich maneuver is a process that uses air from the affected person’s lungs to push out anything that may be obstructing breathing and thus resulting in choking.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

In order to perform the Heimlich maneuver, an individual must bend the affected person over slightly and wrap one’s arms around. At this point it is important to place one hand around the area right below the rib cage and above the belly button. Finally, this hand must be covered by the other and pressure must be applied quickly and repeatedly in an inward and upward motion (in an effort to push the obstruction out). In the case of vomiting, the affected person should be laid down on their side to prevent further choking.

Performing the Self-Heimlich Maneuver 

In the unfortunate case that choking takes place when no one else is around, the Heimlich maneuver can still be performed. While the hand placement and motions performed should be the same, there are additional measures to take in the case that the obstruction cannot be removed with the initial approach. In the case that the initial motion is ineffective, pressing the upper abdomen over a hard and flat surface is recommended.

The Heimlich Maneuver: Best Practices

The Heimlich Maneuver is a method that should be used in cases of emergency. However, it is important to remember that one should call 911 before performing the Self-Heimlich maneuver. This version of the maneuver should not be used on children under the age of 1. Furthermore, being cautious when performing the Heimlich maneuver on children of all ages is the best practice.

Finally, calling 911 is also the best practice when dealing with individuals that are unable to speak due to the severity of the choking.


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