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How To Perform the Heimlich Maneuver 
by VWB October 27, 2007

The Heimlich Maneuver has been a recognized form of clearing the blocked airway of a choking victim since 1974. By following the guidelines carefully, it is possible to save the life of a choking victim with the Heimlich maneuver.

The Heimlich maneuver is often used on a choking victim who is conscious but can’t speak or breathe due to a blocked airway. It can also be used on asthmatics during an attack and a drowning victim as well as victims who are too large to wrap your arms around.

For Choking

The most common use for the Heimlich maneuver is to help a victim who is choking. Whether you’re in a restaurant or your own home, choking can happen at a moment’s notice. Just be sure the person is actually choking before you begin.

  • Ask the victim, "Are you choking?" just to be sure you do not attempt the Heimlich maneuver on someone who is not breathing for a reason other than a blocked airway.
  • Wrap your arms around the victim’s waist from behind.
  • Make a fist and push the thumb side of your fist against the victim’s upper abdomen, which is below the ribcage and above the navel.
  • Grab hold of your fist with your other hand and press into the upper abdomen with a fast, upward thrust. Make sure to maintain the force of the movement in your hands alone. Do not squeeze the ribcage or squeeze with your arms.
  • Repeat until the object blocking the airway is expelled.

For Victim Too Large To Reach Around and Unconscious Victims

Some people pass out when the object blocking their airway cuts off their breathing for too long. You won’t be able to support the dead weight of a faint victim. If this is the case, you must clear the airway before delivering CPR. Use the same approach when your arms are too short to wrap around a victim’s waist.

  • Lay the victim on his back.
  • Straddle the victim’s hips, facing him.
  • With one hand on top of the other, push the heel of your bottom hand on the upper abdomen (below the ribcage and above the navel).
  • Using your body weight, push into the victim’s upper abdomen with a fast, upward thrust.
  • Repeat until the object blocking the airway is expelled.
  • If the victim is still not breathing when the airway is clear, begin CPR.



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