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First Aid Medical Techniques: How To Perform Emergency First Aid Treatment For Choking

Updated on February 3, 2011

Emergency Medical Help for Choking

Getting emergency medical help for choking obviously can save a life. However, knowing what to do yourself until help arrives can also be just as lifesaving.

True choking is when a person is obviously unable to speak or breathe and is turning color. The first thing to do is ask the person 'Are you choking?' If the person is able to answer you by speaking, it is probably a partial airway obstruction. Stay with the person and encourage him or her to cough until the obstruction is hopefully cleared.

Someone who cannot answer by speaking and can only nod is probably having a complete airway obstruction and needs emergency help. Remember though that choking is an emergency. Call 911 for emergency medical help and do NOT attempt to drive a choking person to an emergency department.

Treatment for a choking person varies depending upon the person's age. The Heimlich maneuver or abdominal thrusts is the preferred method of clearing an obstructed airway in adults and children older than 1 year of age. This maneuver is a thrust that creates an artificial cough and it may be forceful enough to clear the airway. These thrusts rapidly compress the lungs and force air out, thus hopefully forcing out the object that caused the person to choke.

There is also a technique for performing the Heimlich on a child less than 1 year of age and another technique for dogs and pets.

Heimlich Maneuver - Abdominal Thrusts

  • Lean the person slightly forward and stand behind him or her.
  • Make a fist with 1 hand.
  • Put your arms around the person and grasp your fist with the other hand in the midline of the person just below the ribs.
  • Make a quick, hard movement inward and upward in an attempt to assist the person to cough and cough up the object.
  • This should be repeated until the person is able to breathe or loses consciousness.
  • If the person loses consciousness, gently lay him or her flat on their back on the floor. 
  • To clear the airway, kneel next to the person and put the heel of your hand against the middle of the abdomen just below the ribs.  Place your other hand on top and press inward and upward 5 times with BOTH hands.  If the airway clears and the person is still unresponsive, begin CPR.


Heimlich Maneuver In Babies Under 1 Year

  • For babies less than 1 year in age, the child is too small for abdominal thrusts to be successful so instead, the infant should be picked up and 5 back blows should be administered followed by 5 chest thrusts.
  • Be careful to hold the infant with the head angled DOWN to let gravity assist with clearing the object from the airway.
  • Be careful to support the infant's head.
  • If the infant turns blue or becomes unresponsive, CPR should be administered.

Self Administered Heimlich

If someone is not around, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver by utilizing a chair or something you can lean over.  Before performing the maneuver, however, it is a good safety precaution to dial 911 just in case you lose consciousness.  Even if you cannot speak, they will trace the call and will dispatch aid to your location.

Heimlich Maneuver For A Dog

  • First assess whether the dog is truly choking as performing the maneuver on a non-choking dog can be injurious to the animal
  • Open his mouth and see if there is a foreign body you can remove that is causing the obstruction
  • Grasp your dog around his waist and place your fists beneath his LAST ribs
  • With your hands in position, deliver 3 firm abdominal compressions and release them quickly
  • Check your dog's mouth again for a foreign body that may have dislodged.  If found, get rid of it
  • If your dog is still choking, you may repeat this maneuver up to 3 times
  • If this does not solve the choking, seek medical attention immediately at your nearest vet or vet ER
  • If you are unable to successfully remove the obstruction, reassess breathing and if your dog is not moving air, perform mouth to mouth resuscitation
  • If your dog has choked to the point of obstruction, make sure you have a vet examine the dog as damage can be done from foreign bodies to delicate membranes of the throat and esophagus

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

Self-Administered Heimlich

Pet Heimlich

Heimlich on an Infant

Amazon Sources for Pet First Aid


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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      ncuxapa - Thanks for stopping by and for the kudos!

    • ncuxapa_ profile image

      ncuxapa_ 7 years ago

      Very very informative ! Nice job