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What is Heimlich Maneuver and How to Perform It Correctly?

heimlich maneuver

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July 26, 2022

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The Heimlich maneuver is a first aid procedure used for choking victims. Victim chokes when they can’t breathe because of an obstruction in their upper airway. For example, piece of food, toys, or small items could block their throat or windpipe. To do proper first aid, a rescuer must know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. This method can be used on adults and children but isn’t recommended for infants. This article will explain the Heimlich maneuver and how you can perform it on all choking victims

What is the Heimlich maneuver?

Abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver, is a first aid procedure used to help a choking victim who is conscious and unable to talk. This first aid procedure will push the air out of the choking victim’s lungs to make him cough. The force of the cough may then move the foreign body out of his airway.

Heimlich Maneuver

Who Invented the Heimlich maneuver?

In 1974, Dr. Henry Heimlich invented the Heimlich maneuver. He discovered the remaining air in a person’s lungs could be used to dislodge a foreign object from the victim’s esophagus using quick, upward thrusts under their ribcage. 

Initially, this procedure didn’t catch on with the medical community, and the back blows or backslap method remained the known first aid choking treatment for another ten years. Eventually, the Heimlich maneuver caught on for use in conscious children and adults. However, back blows is still recommended for infants.

What to Do Before I Start the Heimlich Maneuver?

Before performing the Heimlich Maneuver or Abdominal Thrusts, ask the person first if he is choking. If he nods yes, ask if he can speak. Call 911 or the emergency medical services team immediately if the person cannot speak. While waiting for the medical personnel, you can then perform the Heimlich maneuver on the victim until help arrives.

If the choking victim can speak, the airway is only partly blocked. Tell them to try coughing to push the object out of the airway.

Also Read- What To Do If Someone Is Choking on Water?
Heimlich Maneuver

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Adults and Children?

Young children are prone to choking. Don’t do anything if the child is coughing and gagging but can breathe and talk. But you must act quickly to stop a life-threatening situation if they can’t breathe. To perform abdominal thrusts or Heimlich maneuver, do the following:

  1. Stand behind the victim and wrap your arms around the waist. 
  2. Bend the victim slightly forward at his waist.
  3. Make a fist with one of your hands. Then place the thumb side of your fist between the victim’s belly button and the lowest part of his ribs. Do not put your fist on the victim’s rib cage.
  4. Put your other hand over the fist and push into this muscle with a quick inward and upward thrust. Use less force on a child than you would on an adult.
  5. Repeat the quick thrusts until the foreign object comes out. 
  6. If the victim vomits, lay him on his side to prevent the object from totally blocking his airway.
  7. If the victim becomes unconscious, lay the person on his back on the floor, call 911 and start to rescue breathing or CPR while waiting for the emergency medical services team. 

Take a FREE Conscious Choking practice testto see how prepared you are for a real BLS certification exam.

How to Perform Heimlich Maneuver on a Pregnant Victim?

  1. Wrap your arms under the armpits of the pregnant victim. 
  2. Place your fist on the center of the victim’s breastbone.
  3. Ensure your fist is not low on the breastbone or off to one side on the ribs. 
  4. Place your other hand over your fist, and do quick thrusts.
  5. Repeat until the foreign object comes out or the person becomes unconscious.

How Do I Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Myself?

If you experience choking and can breathe and talk, cough hard to force the foreign object out. However, if you cannot talk or cough and having trouble breathing, do the following:

  1. Call 911. Set the phone down while you do abdominal thrusts.
  2. Make a fist with one hand. Place your thumb side of your fist between your belly button and the lowest part of your ribs. 
  3. Put your other hand over your fist, then press your fist into your abdomen with a quick inward and upward push. Repeat the quick pushes until you can spit out the object.
  4. If you cannot get the foreign object out, press your upper abdomen over a hard, flat surface. You may need to do many hard, fast pushes against the surface to clear your airway.

Who Should Not Receive the Heimlich Maneuver?

Infants shouldn’t receive the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, it would help if you will do back blows or chest thrusts. In addition, if a choking victim is unconscious, they should not receive the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, you should perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), which consists of chest compressions and rescue breathing.

Heimlich Maneuver

What Are the Risks of the Heimlich Maneuver?

The Heimlich maneuver is a safe and quick method to save the lives of choking victims. You don’t need formal medical training to perform the Heimlich maneuver. However, severe abdominal harm can be done if the Heimlich maneuver isn’t performed correctly. Problems can occur if the foreign object is not removed after the first few thrusts. 

When you perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a choking victim, gastrointestinal tract holes and broken ribs can be the most common complications. Other rare abdominal complications can happen. But performing the Heimlich maneuver is still recommended in a life-or-death situation.

Are There Any Heimlich Maneuver Training Classes Available?

Many training centers and health organizations offer CPR and First Aid Certification courses where you learn how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver properly. This course is meant for the general public that needs the course for regulatory or other job requirements. In addition, it is available for anyone with limited or no medical training who needs certification in CPR and AED to meet job, regulatory or other requirements. Upon completing this course, students receive a certification card valid for two years.

Also Read- CPR Training vs. AED Training: Which One Do I Need?
Key Takeaways

The Heimlich maneuver or abdominal thrusts is a rapid first-aid procedure to treat choking due to upper airway obstruction by a foreign object, typically food or a toy. Here are some key takeaways from this post:

  • Dr. Henry Heimlich invented the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Call 911 or the emergency medical services team immediately if the person cannot speak.
  • If the choking victim can speak, the airway is only partly blocked.
  • Don’t do anything if the child is coughing and gagging but can breathe and talk.
  • Infants shouldn’t receive the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, it would help if you will do chest thrusts.
  • You don’t need formal medical training to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Many training centers and health organizations offer CPR and First Aid Certification courses where you learn how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver properly.

 Enroll Now for Online CPR/AED Training & Certification Classes at just $19.95.