How To Give The Heimlich To Someone Else Or Yourself

You have probably experienced choking at least once in your life. Sometimes you just get food down the wrong pipe and you're fine — other times, it's worse. You're eating a meal, and suddenly a piece of food gets lodged in your windpipe — the one you're supposed to be breathing through. It cuts off your oxygen supply, and you start to panic. Your fight or flight mode kicks in, increasing your heart rate. Sometimes you can dislodge the food yourself, but would you know what to do if you can't? What if you saw someone else choking? What if you're alone? In 2015, more than 5,000 people died from choking, according to the National Safety Council

First, make sure you understand the signs of choking. The most obvious one is the universal sign of choking — hands around the throat. You may come across someone who has already passed out from choking. Other signs to look for are bluish skin, trouble breathing or inability to breathe, gagging, or a weak cough, according to the Mayo Clinic and the National Safety Council. 

How to give an adult or child the Heimlich

The Red Cross recommends the five and five method of first aid for choking. Tell someone to call 911 so they are on the way while you're helping, and get consent before starting. If a child is choking, ask the parent. If you're the only one there, begin first aid before calling 911. 

Start with five back blows. Put one arm under their arm and around the chest for support and get their upper body parallel to the ground. Aim for in between the shoulder blades with your palm. Give five back blows. 

Next is the Heimlich. Get behind the person choking with one leg between theirs. You might need to kneel down for a child. Put your arms around their waist and find their belly button. Make a fist with one hand and hold just above the belly button. Cover your fist with the other hand and pull up and in at the same time in a quick thrust. Repeat the five and five method until the person is no longer choking or an ambulance has arrived. 

You may not be able to get your arms around someone who's obese or pregnant. Instead, do the thrusts the same way but in the middle of their chest. 

How to perform choking first aid when someone is unconscious

If someone has already passed out from lack of oxygen, the first aid is CPR. Tell someone to call 911 while you're getting the person to the floor on their back. 

Open their mouth and look for the blockage. If you see it and it seems loose, do a finger sweep to try to get it out. Don't do this if you can see it but it's stuck. You might end up pushing it farther down. Move to chest compressions. 

Put the heel of your hands — one on top of the other — on the middle of the person's chest at the breastbone. Kneel so your upper body is over them. Do 30 chest compressions to the tune of the song "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees. Lift the chin again to check the airway; if you see something, sweep it out. Then do two rescue breaths. You'll see the chest rise if the breaths do into the lungs. If it does, check for a pulse.

If there's a pulse, but they're not breathing, switch to two rescue breaths per two minutes. If there's no pulse, continue the 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths. Repeat this until they breathe again or the paramedics get there (via ProCPR and the American Red Cross). 

How to give a baby first aid for choking

First aid for choking is slightly different for babies, but you'll still do a five and five method. When you see a baby choking ask the parent or guardian for consent to deliver first aid and tell someone to call 911. Once you have permission, hold the baby's face around the chin and jaw for support and place them face down on your upper thigh while you're kneeling. Deliver five back blows right in between the shoulder blades. 

Move to chest thrusts by gently flipping the baby over and supporting the head with one hand. Press two fingers into the middle of the chest five times. Keep the baby's head below the rest of their body to help dislodge the object making them choke. Repeat the five back blows and five chest presses until the baby is no longer choking or the paramedics have arrived (via Healthline). 

How to give yourself the Heimlich

Sometimes you're home alone when you start choking. Don't panic; you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself. Call 911 before anything else. You may not be able to talk, but they should be able to get your location and send help. Just set the phone aside and don't hang up.

Find your belly button and place a fist just above it. Put your other hand around your fist. Find a chair, table, counter, or something close to the level of your fist and use it to help you perform the abdominal thrust on yourself by pushing yourself into it.  

If that doesn't work, you can try something else demonstrated by Jeff Rehman, a paramedic, and firefighter. Get on your knees with your hands on the floor as if you were going to do knee pushups. In one motion, throw your hands up and allow your chest and abdomen to hit the floor. This will force air through your windpipe and help get the blockage out.