How to help if someone chokes: the Heimlich trick

When a piece of food or some foreign object gets stuck in the throat, unfortunately, it is not a rare case. And it is very important in such situations to know how to act correctly. 

We have already told how a woman, trying to get a stuck fish bone, swallowed a spoon. It was extremely reckless to act like that. In these cases, there are 2 options for the development of help and self-help, which depend on how far the foreign object has got. 

Option 1

The object entered the respiratory tract, but did not completely close them. This is evident from the fact that a person can pronounce words, short phrases and often coughs. 


In this case, make sure that the victim takes a deep, slow breath and straightens, and then exhales sharply with an inclination forward. Invite the person to clear their throat. You do not need to “beat” him on the back, especially if he is standing upright – you will push the bolus even further into the airways. Patting on the back can only be effective if the person bends over.

Option 2

If a foreign object completely closes the airways, in this case the person suffocates, turns blue, and instead of breathing a whistling sound is heard, he cannot speak, there is no cough or is completely weak. In this case, the method of the American doctor Henry Heimlich will come to the rescue. 

You need to go behind the person’s back, sit down a little, tilt his torso slightly forward. Then you need to grab it from behind with your hands, placing a clenched fist on the abdominal wall exactly under the place where the sternum ends and the last ribs join it. Midway between the apex of the angle formed by the ribs and the sternum and the navel. This area is called epigastrium.

The second hand must be placed on top of the first. With a sharp movement, bending your arms at the elbows, you must press on this area without squeezing the chest. The direction of the jogging movement is towards yourself and up.

Pressing on the abdominal wall will dramatically increase the pressure in your chest and a food bolus will clear your airways. 

  • If the incident happened to a very fat person or pregnant woman, and there is no way to place the fist on the stomach, you can put the fist on the lower third of the sternum.
  • If you cannot immediately clear the airways, then repeat the Heimlich reception 5 more times.
  • In case the person has lost consciousness, lay him on his back, on a flat, hard surface. Press sharply with your hands on the epigastrium (where it is – see above) in the direction of the back-head (back and up).
  • If, after 5 pushes, the airways cannot be cleared, call an ambulance and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

You can also help yourself to get rid of a foreign object using the Heimlich method. To do this, place your fist on the epigastric region, with your thumb toward you. Cover the fist with the palm of your other hand and with a sharp movement press on the epigastric region, directing a pushing movement towards you and up.

The second method is to lean on the back of the chair with the same area and, due to the weight of the body, make sharp jerky movements, in the same direction, until you achieve airway patency.

Be healthy!

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