You’re dining at a restaurant with a friend when food becomes lodged in his throat. It’s clear he’s having a hard time breathing.
“Are you choking?” you ask.
What do you do?
A rapid response on your part can save your friend’s life.
Most people know to resort to the Heimlich Maneuver in this scenario (see a proper description of how to perform the Heimlich at the bottom of this post.) But what happens if the Heimlich doesn’t work and the food remains lodged in his throat? In short, try again. And again. And again.
It may take several attempts to free the airway, and your resilience may pay off. If the person loses consciousness, tell someone to call 911, roll the person onto their back, and begin to perform CPR.
The chest compressions from CPR can be the difference-maker in saving this person’s life, and can help dislodge the object in the person’s throat.
The New York Times recently cited an example in which a woman choking on a piece of steak became unconscious, but was saved by paramedics performing CPR. The relaxation of the muscles of her trachea because of oxygen deprivation – combined with the chest compressions from CPR – may have been what saved her life.
Once the food or object is removed from the person’s airway, keep the person still, and get medical help to ensure there were no medical complications stemming from the choking.
Knowing how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver can prove to be invaluable, but as the example above from The New York Times illustrates, so, too, can knowing how to perform CPR. Consider taking a CPR course if you’re not confident in your CPR skills or if you’ve never taken one.
How to properly perform the Heimlich Maneuver
- Stand behind the person and reach your arms around his or her waist.
- Place your first – thumb side in – just above the person’s belly button.
- Grasp the fist tightly with your other hand.
- Make quick, upward and inward thrusts with your fist.