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How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

Sep 07, 2018

If you or someone around you starts choking, you need to act fast. Choking happens when a foreign object gets stuck in the throat or windpipe. It only takes about four minutes with no oxygen for a choking victim to experience asphyxia, brain damage, or even death. Fortunately, with quick instinct and knowledge about techniques like the Heimlich maneuver, you can save lives.

When to Perform the Heimlich

The Heimlich maneuver is an accessible first-aid technique to treat choking. If the victim swallows an object and can cough, encourage them to keep coughing. However, if the victim cannot make any sound or cough, they may be choking and unable to breathe. Dial 911 and start performing the Heimlich maneuver using the following scenarios as a guide.

  1. Standing Victim

    Standing Victim Heimlich

    • If the choking victim is standing, stand behind them and wrap your arms around him or her.
    • Make a fist and place the thumb side of your hands on the victim’s upper abdomen below the rib cage and above the navel.
    • Use your hands to give a quick, abdominal thrust.
    • Repeat thrusts until the object comes out.
  2. Unconscious Victim

    Unconscious Victim Heimlich

    • Straddle the victim's torso with your knees alongside their body.
    • Place one hand on top of the other, and press the heel of your hand into the stomach above the navel and below the rib cage.
    • Use your body weight to press into the abdomen with quick, upward pressure.
    • Repeat thrusts until the object comes out.
  3. Performing it on Yourself


    • Make a fist and place your thumb side against your stomach, just below the rib cage and above the navel.
    • Grab your fist with the other hand and press upward for a quick abdominal thrust.
    • You can also lean over a chair or horizontal object and use your bodyweight to give yourself quick, upward stomach thrusts.
    • Repeat thrusts until the object comes out.

When dealing with medical emergencies, immediate action is essential. Familiarize yourself with CHI St. Luke’s Health community emergency centers to find your nearest location for emergency medical help.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver