Heimlich Manoeuvre is lifesaving, first aid method used for choking emergencies. It is only safe to perform on people who are unable to breathe due to a blockage of the airways.
What is Heimlich Manoeuvre?
The Heimlich Manoeuvre consists of a series of under-the-diaphragm abdominal thrusts and back slaps. The technique is recommended for a person choking on food, foreign object, or anything blocking their windpipe.
A choking person cannot speak, cough, or breathe. An extended period of airway obstruction can eventually lead to loss of consciousness and, worse, death.
When administering abdominal thrusts, be mindful of the use of too much force. Exert appropriate pressure not to bring any damage to the person’s ribs or internal organs. Only use it if the back slaps fail to relieve the airway obstruction on a conscious person.
If done incorrectly, abdominal thrusts can be painful and even injure the person. Use this first aid method only in adults and when there is an actual emergency.
If the person is unconscious, it is best to do chest compressions.
For infant and toddler choking, a different technique may apply. Seek advice from a health care provider or a child’s paediatrician on the proper first-aid technique to use.
Heimlich Manoeuvre for Infants (Newborn to 12-month-old babies)
- First, place the infant stomach-down position, just across the forearm. Support the head and jaw using one hand.
- Give five quick, forceful back slaps between the infant’s shoulder blades.
- If the object did not come out after the first attempt, turn the infant over on their back, supporting the head.
- Give five chest thrusts using two fingers to push the breastbone, just between the nipples. Push down a couple of times and then let go.
- Repeat back slaps and chest thrusts until the object is removed or when the infant can breathe normally again.
- If the infant becomes unconscious, have someone call triple zero (000) immediately. Continue rescue efforts under the instruction of the emergency dispatcher and until an ambulance arrives.
Heimlich Manoeuvre for Toddlers (Ages 1-8)
- Start with positioning the child by bending them over at the waist. Place the hand under the chest for support.
- Give five back blows using the heel of the hand. Position this back slaps in between the child’s shoulder blades.
- Place your fist under the child’s breastbone as you put your arms around them. Cover the fist with another hand, keeping it in a lock position.
- Thrust the fist upward into the child’s abdomen. Perform the thrusts quickly and repeat them up to four times until the blocked object dislodges.
- Call triple zero (000) after completing the Heimlich Manoeuvre once. It is best to know that emergency help is on the way while keeping the child stable.
Heimlich Manoeuvre for Adults
If an adult can breathe, cough, or make a sound, let them try to get the object out by continuing coughing. If concerns and other symptoms start to appear, call emergency services and proceed with the Heimlich Manoeuvre.
- Get into position by standing or kneeling behind the person and wrap your arms around their waist.
If the person is in a standing position, place your legs in theirs to provide support if they lose consciousness.
- Make a fist using one hand and place the thumb against the person’s belly area (above the belly button but below the breastbone).
Grab the fist with the other hand and give a quick upward thrust in an attempt to pop the object out. Exert extra force for an adult as the situation may require it.
- Repeat the abdominal thrusts until the object pops out or until the person loses consciousness.
Learn the Proper Way to Handle Choking
The Heimlich Manoeuvre is more than just abdominal thrusts and back slaps. It requires proper training, but it is relatively easy to learn for beginners and is often taught as part of a CPR and First Aid Course.
Learn the Heimlich Manoeuvre, and be ready to save a person who is choking, whether it’s an adult, child, or infant.
Find a first aid course near you or contact us for more information.