Health Q&A - The Heimlich Maneuver

April 22, 2002|BY Christine L. Moats

The Heimlich Maneuver can be used to help a choking victim clear his airway.

A person with a severe or complete airway obstruction will not be able to cough forcefully, speak or breathe. He may make high-pitched noises when he tries to inhale. He may also have one or both hands at his throat; this is the universal sign of choking.

Before beginning the Heimlich Maneuver always ask the person, "Are you choking?"

Q: How do I help someone who is choking and cannot speak or breathe?

A: If the person cannot speak or can only make high-pitched noises, follow these steps to assist in expelling the object.

1. Stand behind the victim.

2. Make a fist with one hand.

3. Place your fist on the victim's stomach, slightly above the navel but below the ribcage.

4. Grasp your fist with the other hand.

5. Deliver quick upward thrusts into the victim's abdomen.


6. Deliver thrusts until the object is expelled or the victim becomes unresponsive.

7. If the victim becomes unresponsive call 9-1-1 and begin resuscitive measures immediately.

Q: What can I do if I am choking and there is no one home to help me?

A: If you cannot speak or breathe follow these steps:

1. Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against your upper abdomen, above the navel but below the ribcage.

2. Grasp your fist with your other hand and press upward into your abdomen with a quick thrust.

3. Repeat until object is expelled.

Another alternative is to lean over a fixed object such as the back of a chair, a railing or a table edge and press your abdomen against the edge to create a quick upward thrust. Continue to do this until the object is expelled.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (Adult, Child and Infant) and First Aid Classes are offered at Washington County Hospital the first Saturday of each month, 8 a.m. to noon. The cost is $20 per class until July 1; after that the price will increase to $30.

To sign up, call Cindy Earle, RN, community health educator, for more information at 301-790-8622.

The Heimlich Maneuver is taught in CPR classes.

Sources: American Heart Association,

Christine L. Moats is wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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