How to use Choking heimlich maneuver in any situation

Are you suddenly choking on food or does your mate have food stuck in their throat and unable to breathe? Such accidents are more common than you think, and if you face one either yourself or someone else, the choking heimlich maneuver might just save your life.

When food blocks the airway (respiratory tract), it is very likely that you will not be able to breathe, and this is where it gets dangerous.

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At this time, going to the hospital or waiting for emergency services, may be too late, so it is necessary for everyone to learn some first aid methods.

Today, we will be talking extensively on the choking heimlich maneuver and how use this life-saving method alone, on infants, on adults or on pregnant women

What is choking heimlich maneuver?

Acute foreign body blockage in the respiratory tract is not uncommon in life. Because patients become unable to breathe after the airway is blocked, it may cause accidental death due to hypoxia.

Choking Heimlich Maneuver, also known plainly as Heimlich Maneuver, was invented by the American doctor Mr. Heimlich.

When encountering a foreign body stuck in the throat, many people will stick their fingers in their mouths in a hurry.

In fact, doctors did this many years ago, in ignorance that it had no effect on the situation but rather made it easier to get the foreign body stuck deeper.

Heimlich was shocked by the large number of foreign body asphyxiation deaths during his years of service.

After repeated research and animal experiments, he finally invented a more effective method to deal with foreign body obstruction in the airway, this method became known as the “Heimlick First Aid”.


In 1974, he first applied the technique to successfully rescue a patient who suffered from choking due to food clogging the respiratory tract.

Since then, the method has been widely used throughout the world, saving countless patients, including former President Reagan of the United States and former Mayor of New York. Germany, famous actress Elizabeth Taylor and so on. Therefore, this law is called “the hug of life”.

How does choking Heimlich maneuver work?

The human lungs can be imagined as a balloon, with the mouth being trachea is the mouth of the balloon.

If the mouth is blocked by a foreign object, you can squeeze the balloon with your hands, which will cause the air in the balloon to move upward under pressure, and push the foreign matter out. This is the physics principle of choking heimlich maneuver.

The first aider embraces the patient and suddenly applies pressure to the upper abdomen, forcing the upper abdomen to sink, and the diaphragm to rise suddenly.

This will cause the patient’s chest pressure to increase suddenly. Because the chest cavity is closed, there is only one opening in the trachea, so the gas in the lungs will naturally rush to the trachea under the action of pressure.

Each impact will produce 450-500 ml of gas, which may expel foreign bodies and restore the airway

How to use choking heimlich maneuver?

If someone is choked but can cough, encourage them to cough more and try to get rid of the foreign body.

If you find someone choking, unable to speak, unable to cough, and almost unable to breathe (as shown in the picture below), it is recommended that emergency services are called immediately, then the choking heimlich maneuver should begin.

A choking man clutching his throat

1. Choking heimlich maneuver for adults and children over 1 years of age

  • The rescuer stands behind the injured, with one leg placed between the injured and his body close to the injured back (as shown in the picture below).
  • The rescuer clenches a fist with one hand, aimed at the upper abdomen (two horizontal fingers above the belly button) with his fist and grabs the fist with the other hand, slamming it backward and upward with force until the foreign body id discharged or the injured person loses response.

Choking Heimlich maneuver on sober adult


  • After making a fist, use your thumbs to aim at your abdomen instead of four fingers.
  • For children, the rescuer should use their legs as a fulcrum when impacting the abdomen, and must not let the children’s feet off the ground (see Figure 1 below).
  • For pregnant women and people with obvious abdominal obesity, the chest impact method should be used, and the impact position should be on the lower half of the sternum (see figure 2  below)
  • If the stuck foreign object is fishbone, do not use heimlich maneuver to give first aid, go to the EMT or doctor for treatment.
Choking heimlich maneuver for conscious children
For conscious children (Picture 1)


Choking heimlich maneuver on pregnant women
For pregnant women or people with too fat abdomen (Picture 2)

2. Choking heimlich maneuver for adults and unconscious children over 1 year old

  • Place the injured person on their back and immediately perform CPR, starting with chest compressions.
  • Every 30 presses, check whether there is any foreign body expelled from the oral cavity. If there is, clean it up carefully; if not, continue with artificial respiration 2 times.
  • This should be repeated until the emergency personnel arrive.

Choking heimlich maneuver for the unconscious

3. Choking heimlich maneuver for conscious babies under 1 year old

A combination of two-finger impact on the chest (in the middle of the line between the two nipples, as shown in the figure below) and palm and back slaps is needed.


Chest compressions should be performed 5 times, followed by 5 pats on the back alternately until the foreign body is expelled or the baby loses response (cardiopulmonary resuscitation is performed if the baby loses response).



When performing choking heimlich maneuver for babies, the impact must be on the chest instead of the abdomen, so as not to damage the baby’s liver.


4. Choking heimlich maneuver for yourself when alone

In theory, you can use your fist to hit the abdomen, or use the round and blunt chair back to hit the upper abdomen to save yourself (as shown below).

However, when a foreign body obstruction occurs, you may not be able to respond correctly, so you should ask others for help as soon as possible.

Choking heimlich maneuver for yourself

5. Choking heimlich method for pregnant women or extremely obese

As stated above, chest impact method should be used for patients with extreme obesity or in late pregnancy.

The posture should remain unchanged, just stick the thumb of the left hand to the lower end of the patient’s sternum, and be careful not to deviate from the sternum to avoid rib fracture. 

6. Choking heimlich maneuver for animals

What’s interesting is that Heimlich’s first aid method has been discovered for more than 40 years. As the inventor, Dr. Heimlich only performed human first aid twice, except for the experiments done on dogs.

This means that that learning this method can not only save people, but may also save animals at home.


Pictures were culled from

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