Someone once said “We take breathing for granted, never thinking about it, until you can’t breathe, then that is all you can think about” That’s because life cannot exist without breathing and that is why choking is so deadly. More than 4,800 deaths occur each year and it has become the 4th leading cause of death in children under 4 years of age. This is a skill that almost anyone can do, in fact, the creator of the Heimlich Maneuver Dr. Henry Heimlich at the young age of 96 years old, just this week saved a woman from choking on food using for the first time, his life-saving creation.
The retired chest surgeon discovered years ago that abdominal thrusts applied to a choking person lifts the diaphragm, forcing air from the lungs to dislodge any object. As a professional firefighter I have personally performed this technique in the field as well seen my fellow first responders use this skill to save lives. But you shouldn’t have to wait for first responders, when you, as a spontaneous rescuer can perform the maneuver immediately. So let’s teach you how simple this lifesaving skill is.
How to save a person from choking
If your victim is talking, then they are breathing, but if they are gagging or coughing because they have a partial obstruction, then we need to have them continue to cough, sometimes raising their arms above their heads relaxes the neck muscles and allows them to cough up the object more easily.
If they can’t cough it up within 60 seconds you need to call 9-1-1 to get help coming. They can’t live like this. But, do not give them water- that can close off the little air that is getting into the lungs. Do not strike on the back, as this can cause the object to move and cause a complete obstruction.
Now, if they can’t cough or speak then you need to take immediate action to clear their airway.
First, ask them if they are choking, then tell them you are going to give them abdominal thrusts to help them breathe.
Second, get behind your victim and reach around the stomach and find the belly button with your index finger. This is your landmark for the diaphragm- the breathing muscle.
Then make fist with the other hand, placing the thumb side of your fist just above the navel. This should keep your arms just below their ribcage to avoid injuring the victim.
Now grab that fist with your other hand and begin forcibly thrusting inward and upward repeatedly, until the victim coughs up the object.
Of course, someone should of been on their way to the phone to call 9-1-1, just in case it doesn’t work. My guess is, you will have saved their life before the call can even be made. It works that fast.