The Heimlich Maneuver

By FBC Ministries

Seconds seemed to last an eternity as I held his little body in my arms and watched as he turned blue. My nephew was choking, and I didn’t know what to do. I was just a teenager, and this was one of my first experiences with babysitting. I tried slapping him on the back between his shoulder blades, I tried turning him upside down, and I even tried to give him water to drink. All of my efforts were very wrong and could have caused further damage.

I was an inexperienced babysitter and knew no procedure to administer to a choking victim. Fortunately, God heard my cries for help that day. Although all of my efforts were wrong and I did not know what to do, He did. God somehow dislodged the food. I soon learned how to care for someone who was choking, but those few moments of time have been etched in my memory for years. I would never wish anyone to experience the incredible terror I felt that day. Would you know what to do if God allowed someone in your presence to choke? Do you have a plan? A procedure? Calling 9-1-1 may not always be an option.

In 1974, a doctor named Henry Heimlich described a procedure to help save choking victims. He replaced the “slapping on the back method” with using abdominal thrusts. From 1985 to 2005, the Heimlich Maneuver was the only recommended method of treating choking victims. Since that time, more than 50,000 lives have been saved. In 2006, the American Red Cross changed direction and now recommends that the back slap method be tried first on conscious patients.

Note: The Heimlich Maneuver should never be used on a person who can cough, breathe, or speak. Incorrect use can damage the ribs, chest, and internal organs. Instruct a conscious, breathing person to bend at the waist, and then deliver a series of thumps between his shoulder blades. The American Heart Association does not recommend the use of the Heimlich maneuver in any fashion for infants under the age of 1.

The Heimlich Maneuver for Choking Children or Adults

1. Stand behind the victim and wrap your arms around his waist.

2. Make a fist. Place the thumb side of your fist in the center of the victim’s abdomen. (The abdomen is located just above the belly button and well below the rib cage.)

3. Grasp your fist firmly with your other hand.

4. Press your fist with a quick, upward thrust into the victim’s abdomen. Continue until the object is expelled.

Note: If you begin to choke and no one is available to help you, you can administer the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself. You can follow steps 2 and 3, or you can lean over a table edge or chair and press your upper abdomen against the edge to produce quick abdominal thrusts.

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