If a person is choking, there a few ways to help them. These techniques depend on the person’s age, pregnancy status, and weight.
Performing the Heimlich maneuver has its risks. The performer may accidentally break a rib(s) of the person who is choking.
Adults and Children Over the Age of 1
The National Safety Council provides the following steps to help a person who is choking, if they are still conscious:
- Stand behind the person with one leg forward between the person’s legs.
- For a child, move down to their level and keep your head to one side.
- Put your arms around the person and locate their belly button.
- Place the thumb side of one fist against the stomach just above their belly button.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand and thrust inward and upward into the person’s stomach. Use quick, thrusting movements five times or until they expel the item.
- Continue thrusts until the person expels the object or becomes unresponsive.
- If the person becomes unresponsive, begin CPR.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Infants (Under 1 Year Old)
This technique is not safe for infants under 1 year old. Instead, place the infant on your forearm or thigh, make sure their head is supported, and hit their back with the palm of your hand until the item is expelled. Seek medical care immediately.
Pregnant Person or Person With Obesity
For a responsive pregnant person or person with obesity, give chest thrusts from behind. Avoid squeezing the ribs with your arms. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you are alone and choking, you can thrust yourself against the back of a chair to expel the object. This works better than trying to perform the thrusting motion on yourself.
When to Use the Heimlich Maneuver
If a person appears unable to speak or starts motioning toward their throat, they are likely choking. In these cases, it’s crucial to help immediately.