Mayo Clinic Minute: A quick guide to the Heimlich maneuver

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How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

Four Methods:

If someone is choking, it's important you know what to do to help. The Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) is an emergency response technique that can save a life in seconds. It is a simple action that will often dislodge food or another object from a person's airway when they are choking, as it provides an increase in pressure in the abdomen and chest, enabling the object to be expelled.


Performing the Heimlich on a Standing Person

  1. Determine if the person is truly choking.A choking victim will often have their hands around their throat. If you notice someone making this gesture, look for other choking signals. You should only perform the Heimlich on a choking person. Look for the following:
    • Cannot breathe or experiencing loud, difficult breathing
    • Cannot speak
    • Inability to cough effectively
    • Blue or gray color to lips and fingernail beds
    • Loss of consciousness
  2. Let the person know you're going to perform the Heimlich.Tell the choking person you want to help them. Let them know you know the Heimlich Maneuver and are going to perform it on them.
  3. Wrap your arms around the person's waist.Stand with your legs separated to best support your body. Gently wrap both arms around their waist. Lean them forward slightly.
  4. Position your hands.With one hand, make a fist. Which hand you use does not matter. Position your fist below the ribcage, but above the navel. Then, wrap your other hand around your fist.
  5. Make a series of thrusts.To make a thrust, press hard and quick into the abdomen. Pull inward and upward as you press. It should feel like you're trying to lift the person off the ground.
    • Make the thrusts quick and forceful.
    • Perform five abdominal thrusts in quick succession. If the object is still not dislodged, repeat with five additional thrusts.
  6. Perform back blows.If the object is not dislodged with the Heimlich maneuver, do back blows. Deliver five blows to the person's back with the heel of your hand. Aim for the area between the shoulder blades.
    • Press down hard, as you need to use enough force to dislodge the object.However, keep the force confined to your hands. Do not squeeze the area surrounding the person's ribcage or abdomen.
  7. Call emergency services.Call emergency services if the object is not dislodged. Preferably, have someone else call emergency services after the Heimlich fails the first time and you are performing another round of back blows. When an emergency service worker arrives, they can get the object dislodged. At this point, stay away from the choking person.

Performing the Heimlich on Someone Lying Down

  1. Get the person on their back.If you can't wrap your arms around the person, or if they've fallen, get them on their back. Gently instruct the person to turn on their back and help them as necessary.
  2. Kneel at the person's hips.Get on you knees and position yourself on top of the person. Kneel over the person, hovering just above their hips.
  3. Position your hands.Place one hand on top of the other. Place the heel of the bottom hand on the person's abdomen. This is the area just below the ribcage but above the navel.
  4. Press your hands on the person's abdomen.Using your bodyweight, press your hands into the person's abdomen with a slight upward motion. Repeat doing thrusts until the object is expelled from the person's throat.
  5. Call emergency services.If you're unable to expel the object using the Heimlich, call emergency services. If someone is choking and you are unable to help, medical professionals will be needed to remove the unwanted object. When they arrive, answer any questions they have and allow them to help the person.

Performing the Heimlich on an Infant

  1. Hold the infant face down.To start, find a firm surface. Lay the infant on the firm surface with their face down. Make sure the infant's head is turned so they can breathe. Kneel near the infant's feet.
    • You can also place the infant on your lap face down.
  2. Give the baby five quick blows to the back.Use the heel of your hand. Deliver five quick blows to the area between the infant's shoulder blades. Hopefully, an object will pop out quickly.
    • With an infant, be firm in the blows but do not use harsh force. You do not want to press too hard, as this could hurt an infant. Gravity combined with back blows can provide adequate force to dislodge the object.
  3. Turn the infant over.If no object pops out, turn the infant over. Support their head with your hand, keeping the head slightly lower than the feet.
  4. Give the infant five chest thrusts.Place your fingers on the lower half of the infant's breastbone. Make sure to keep your hand in the middle of your infant's breastbone and not to one side of another. Press down five times in a series of chest thrusts. If you see the object become dislodged, stop giving chest thrusts.
  5. Call emergency services if the objects fails to come out.Immediately call 9-1-1 if the object does not become dislodged. As you wait, repeat the back blows and the chest thrusts. Repeating the steps may cause the object to become dislodged while you're waiting.

Performing the Heimlich on Yourself

  1. Make a fist.To start, make a firm fist with your hand. It does not matter which hand you're using.
  2. Press your fist against your abdomen.Place the thumb side of your fist against your abdomen. Your hand should be below the ribcage, but above the navel. Wrap your other hand around your fist.
  3. Press against your abdomen.Press your hands in your abdomen. Do so over and over again until the object is dislodged. Use quick, upward thrusts as you attempt to dislodge the object.
  4. See a physician.You should see a doctor after saving yourself from choking. They will want to make sure there was no damage. You should also call 9-1-1 or go to the ER if you are choking and cannot dislodge the object.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How can I perform the Heimlich maneuver on myself?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You can find the proper steps in on wikiHow.
  • Question
    How many times might this maneuver need to be done on someone?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Continue trying as many times as necessary until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Question
    What is the correct orientation of the thumb when performing the maneuver?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The thumb should be held tight on the outside of the hand when you make a fist, against your curled index finger. Do not hold the thumb inside your hand, as you risk breaking your thumb.
  • Question
    How old should a child be to do the Heimlich maneuver?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    A child should be big enough to comfortable fit their arms around someone and strong enough to do thrusts. Ages vary depending on how quickly a child grows.
  • Question
    If the person is pregnant, or too large to reach around, where do you place your hand?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    A little below the breast bone xiphoid process. The xiphoid process is a cartilaginous part of the sternum, so pressure should be avoided on it. Depending on the expansion of the abdomen, care must be taken to avoid unnecessary pressure on the growing fetus. .
  • Question
    Can an abdominal thrust be done in a seated position?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes. Reach around the chair, with one hand and arm above the shoulder, and the other under the opposite shoulder and grasp your hands as in step 6 in the article. Perform thrusts until the victim either dislodges the object or loses consciousness. If they lose consciousness, initiate CPR.
  • Question
    What to do when you are alone?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It's possible to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself. Look it up online.
  • Question
    Should my rib cage be sore after the abdominal thrust and for how long?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Soreness is possible for some people after performing the heimlich. With time, your soreness should pass. Try to take it easy afterwards.
  • Question
    Can I crack a rib with the Heimlich?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The instructions say to position your hands and arms between the navel and the rib cage, so as long as you do that, you shouldn't crack a rib. You only crack a rib if you do it incorrectly.
  • Question
    Why not do CPR until help gets there?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Because if the object blocks the airway, even if you do compressions, oxygen will not be able to circulate and the brain will fail.
Unanswered Questions
  • Can you perform abdominal thrusts on a person in bed or laying down?
  • What happens if they die of choking? And what happens if the brain will fail?
  • Can Heimlich be performed on a person with rods in back?
  • Can you give me some instructions for performing the abdominal thrusts on a person stuck in bed?
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Quick Summary

To perform the Heimlich maneuver on a person who is choking, stand behind them with your feet apart, and wrap your arms around their waist. Lean the person forward slightly and ball one hand into a fist. Rest this fist below the person’s rib cage, but above their naval, and wrap your other hand around the first. Make a series of 5 hard, quick thrusts inward and upward into the person’s abdomen, as if you are trying to lift the person off the ground. Repeat with 5 more thrusts if necessary. If this doesn’t work, deliver 5 blows to the person’s back with the heel of your hand, directly between their shoulder blades. Call emergency services if the Heimlich doesn’t seem to be working.

Did this summary help you?


  • If you do not know what to do, call your local emergency number. They can help to talk you through treating the victim (put them on loudspeaker).
  • Choking is life-threatening. Be prepared to act immediately if someone is experiencing this.
  • Do not attempt to slap a choking victim on the back if he or she is coughing! A coughing victim indicates only a partial blockage, and slapping one on the back can induce a full air blockage by lodging the object farther down. Allow him or her to cough up the blockage or show signs of choking before you intervene.

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of How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver was reviewed by on June 2, 2019.

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May 21

"I just love this website because it is with fill details as required. "

Erson Tan

May 19

"This is very informative. Thank you!"

Syd Howard Cox

Apr 18, 2019

"My wife has a lot of choking fits. Thankfully, I learned this method earlier on and have performed it successfully,but still worried what would happen should she be alone. Now I've learned how she can do it for herself! Thank you! To lose her after 52 years would be the end of my life as well! Learned that patting the back is not the correct method. This needs to be taught to everyone. Unfortunately, here in the U.K., this is only taught in first aid classes. I urge everyone to read and learn this."

Victoria Ahrendsen

Jul 22, 2019

"Thank you for providing me w/this article, as it is offers both written and photographic instructions on how toperform the Heimlich. This article has also answered most (if not all) of the pertinent questions I initially had about this topic. "

Rob Johnson

May 17, 2019

"Today, I saved a life for the second time by doing this. I took quick action at a local restaurant and saved aman's life. I'm thankful to have been successful in the past by saving my mother the same way. "

Mike Spanakis

May 5, 2019

"Very helpful. Should be mandatory to all employees and employers of the food industry to know how to perform thismaneuver. Would also be very helpful in high school. I've saved a life with this."

Theresa Guy

Feb 27

"My husband was choking on a piece of turkey, as soon as he stood up I went behind him and did a couple of abdominalthrusts, which enabled him to cough and throw up, so he could breathe again."

Amelia Genova

Oct 23, 2019

"The detailed and clear language of instruction was helpful. So was the very important tip about the exact positionof the thumb on the outside the fist."

Sabiha Harris

Apr 13, 2019

"The step-by-step video helped me immensely to administer in any emergency, whether I'm with family, friends, oralone. Thank you for sharing."

Tracie Seward

Feb 16, 2019

"The specific step-by-step instructions were very helpful. The pictures were a great visual aid."

Ethni Snell

Jun 9, 2019

"Awesome illustrations, very informative text, easy to understand."

Jeff Kelly

Feb 24, 2019

"My girlfriend was choking on bacon and the maneuver worked."

Silas Sexton

Feb 19

"It helps me in case I need to use it on anyone."

Jogayak Chatterjee

Jul 19, 2019

"Learned this lifesaving technique. Thanks."

Elaine Devine

Apr 13, 2019

"A great reminder with simple instructions."


Apr 9, 2019

"Method was very clearly explained."

Maame ama Ackaah-gyasi

May 19, 2019

"It has educated me a lot.

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Date: 06.12.2018, 16:56 / Views: 81444