by Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac.
The universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat. If the person doesn’t give the signal, look for these indications:
-Inability to talk
-Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
-Inability to cough forcefully
-Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky
-Loss of consciousness
The Heimlich maneuver is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person’s airway (windpipe) becomes blocked by a piece of food or other object.
It can be used safely on both adults and children, but most experts do not recommend it for infants less than 1 year old. You can also perform the maneuver on yourself.
If choking is occurring, the Red Cross recommends a “five-and-five” approach to delivering first aid:
First, deliver FIVE back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
Second, perform FIVE abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich Maneuver).
Third, alternate between FIVE back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.
The Heimlich Maneuver
To perform the Heimlich Maneuver on someone else:
1. Stand behind the person. Wrap your arms around the waist. Tip the person forward slightly.
2. Make a fist with one hand. Position it slightly above the person’s navel.
3. Grasp the fist with the other hand. Press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust ? as if trying to lift the person up.
4. Perform a total of five abdominal thrusts, if needed. If the blockage still isn’t dislodged, repeat the “five-and-five” cycle.
To perform the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself:
1. Place a fist slightly above your navel.
2. Grasp your fist with the other hand and bend over a hard surface such as a counter top or a chair.
3. Shove your fist inward and upward.
4. If you do not have the strength or the object is not coming out, find the corner of a table or chair and push your body upward and inward into the corner of the table or chair, forcing the lodged object to move up and out of your throat.