Each year, over 3,000 people accidentally inhale food while swallowing and die from an airway obstruction. The Heimlich Maneuver or abdominal thrust is designed to force the air out of the lungs and expel the food out from the throat. But what if you have an airway obstruction and there is no one around to help you? If you are choking, and all alone, it is possible to perform the abdominal thrust on yourself and save your own life.
Assess Your Breathing
First, make a quick assessment of how complete the obstruction is in your airway. Are you moving any air in or out of your lungs? Can you speak? Can you cough?
- A small movement of air may sound like a high-pitched whistling sound or similar to a wheeze. This would be a partially obstructed airway and you may be able to cough hard enough to expel the food from the windpipe.
- If you are not moving any air in or out of the lungs, you may have a completely obstructed airway, and you must remove it quickly before you lose consciousness.
Perform The Abdominal Thrust on Yourself
- Make a fist and point the thumb side toward your body
- Center your fist slightly about your navel and below the ribcage
- Put your other hand over the fist
- With a quick, hard thrust, push your fist upward into the upper abdomen
- Repeat several times until the obstruction is expelled from the airway
Use a Sturdy Surface that is Waist High
If your abdominal thrust attempts have not dislodged the obstruction and you have not resumed breathing, find a chair, table or other surface that is waist high. Continue holding your hands in the abdominal thrust position and perform the maneuver as follows:
- Bend over the chair or table
- With the full force of a quick thrust, push upward with your hand against the table or chair surface
- Repeat this process until the food or obstruction is dislodged and breathing resumes.
Preventative Measures Against Choking
Frequently, choking is an accident that can be prevented with certain safety precautions. Simple rules can be practiced to reduce the chance of the airway becoming obstructed — especially if they are alone.
- Chew food completely and slowly
- Refrain from eating and talking simultaneously
- Do not eat if you are impaired from alcohol or mind-altering substances
- Replace ill-fitting dentures that impair chewing and interfere with swallowing
Become an Expert on Saving Lives
Ensure your life-saving techniques are sound by taking a CPR class and gain the confidence you may need to rescue a loved one or family member. Getting CPR Certification can show you how to respond in an emergency, effectively notify your local emergency response professionals and manage a life-threatening event. Learning the techniques of the abdominal thrust or Heimlich Maneuver can save lives—including your own.