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What to Do in the Case of a Blocked Airway

A blocked airway must be cleared in order to allow a person to breath. It will generally be fairly obvious when a patient is choking. But a person under such duress will very likely point at his or her throat. The maneuver for clearing such an obstruction was developed by a Cincinnati surgeon named Dr. Henry Heimlich1. It was introduced in a Journal of the American Medical Association article in 1974.

The maneuver can be performed safely on both adults and children. However, it is not recommended for use on children under one year of age. It can even be performed by the person experiencing the choking hazard. For a person who is sitting or standing and is also conscious and choking, take up a position behind the person and reach around his or her waist. Thumb side in, place the fist just above the person's navel. Grab the fist tightly with the other hand. Pull fist swiftly upward and inward. This will increase the airway pressure behind the object blocking the opening, hopefully forcing it from the windpipe. If the object does not come loose the first time repeat the maneuver several times until it is dislodged.

The Heimlich Maneuver has also been shown to be effective in removing water from the lungs of a victim of drowning.

A child under 1 year of age that is choking can be helped by laying the infant face down on lap. Be sure the head lower than trunk and hanging over the end of the knees. He or she should be firmly supported. Perform 4 back blows (done with the heel of the hand to the back between the shoulder blades - be firm but careful). Then turn infant, and perform 4 chest thrusts. To perform a chest thrust place two fingers on the child's sternum and depress 1/2 to one inch.2

1. When was the Heimlich maneuver first demonstrated?
2. First Aid for Choking

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This information is presented to be helpful in emergency situations. It is as accurate as we could make it. However, information of this nature is subject to change, may be incomplete, or may not apply in all cases. Also we cannot guarantee that persons using the information will apply it correctly. However, if it is used in the spirit in which it is given, most who follow this guide will benefit from its study and application.

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