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How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

By Steve Larson

On average 3,000 adults die per year as a result of accidentally inhaling and choking on food. When food gets stuck in your throat, it blocks your trachea making it very difficult to breathe. Because the airway is blocked, it may take less than a minute to die after the food is consumed. It is important to act fast in these situations and a slight hesitation could mean the difference between living and dying. The Heimlich maneuver is a standard component of all first aid courses and is an effective technique which all individuals should learn.

When someone is choking the Heimlich maneuver is performed to dislodge the obstruction which is blocking the trachea. By compressing the abdomen just below the level of the diaphragm, the air is forced out of the lungs removing the obstruction which was blocking the air flow. At this point, the material which was blocking the trachea will be brought back up into the mouth.

Now that you’re aware of how important it is to know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, here is a brief explanation on the steps involved in the process:

1. Ask the person if they are choking. Performing the Heimlich maneuver when not necessary can be harmful and can also waste time in getting the victim the correct form of help.

2. Stand behind the victim, make a fist with one hand and place your thumb towards the victim below the rib cage and above the waist.

3. Wrap your arms around the victim, placing your other hand on top of your fist.

4. Thrust upwards from 6-10 times. These thrusts should be relatively hard but not so hard that they can damage the victim further. Do not give up if the first attempt fails. It is very unlikely that it will be effective the first time, keep trying even if it takes 5 or more attempts.

Before you attempt to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking victim, you should be aware of the precautions involved in this technique. Improper application of the Heimlich maneuver can potentially cause damage to the ribs, chest and internal organs of the victim. If you are not completely sure of how to perform this maneuver, take a first aid class which will outline the exact techniques involved.

It is also important to note that when performing the Heimlich maneuver on children the amount of force exuded is considerably less than the amount for adults. Children are not as strongly built as adults and for this reason the amount of force should be decreased so they are not put in any additional danger.

Please be aware that these are just guidelines and they are in no way meant to be taken in replace of a first aid or CPR course. I strongly suggest taking first aid courses to ensure you have the confidence required to successfully perform this maneuver should your assistance be required.

About the author:
Steve Larson is a volunteer firefighter who is passionate about saving lives. This led him to take a freelance writing position for – which offers information about first aid and first aid products - and includes information on creating special things like a ' target='_blank' class='navigation'>">first aid kits.

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