Thousands of healthy people of all ages die from choking every year.
In fact, it’s on the list of the top five causes of accidental death in the U.S. – right under car accidents and fires.
Patty Ris could have easily become one of those victims. But as luck would have it, the 87-year-old was having dinner seated next to none other than Dr. Henry Heimilch.
That’s right, Heimilch – as in the Heimilch maneuver.
Saved from choking!
And, of course, Dr. Heimilch (who’s no spring chicken himself at 96), immediately knew what to do. After all, he invented the technique for clearing blocked windpipes that has saved untold numbers of people from a certain death.
What’s even more surprising than his dining companion’s lucky seat, however, is that it’s the very first time the doctor himself has ever had to “Heimilch” someone!
But plenty of other people have — and saved lives by knowing what to do.
Refresh your Heimlich maneuver know how
And even if you’ve read about the maneuver before, it can’t hurt to brush up on what Dr. Heimilch invented over 50 years ago. You can even use the technique to save your own life!
So here’s how it works, from Minneapolis physician Dr. Stephen Dunlop:
- First, assess the situation. Can the person speak or cough? If they are coughing, encourage them to keep it up. But if they can’t, or start to change color, it’s time to take action.
- Have someone call 911.
- Get behind the person (be sure to tell them what you’re doing as to not panic them), and make a fist with your dominant hand and place the thumb side of the fist halfway between the person’s belly button and breastbone. Grab your fist with your other hand.
- Start making firm, inward and upward thrusts. (Other experts advise that each thrust be an independent action. You’re not massaging the belly.)
- Start with moderate force, but if that doesn’t work, increase your pressure.
- If the person starts coughing, stop.
- If they become unconscious, lay them down on the floor and start chest compressions which may clear their airways.
If you’re a visual learner here’s a good video demonstration of the technique:
For very young children, use back slaps instead of thrusts. And for pregnant women, Dr. Dunlop advises chest compressions similar to CPR.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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