With summer here and frequent family gatherings and barbeques often at the forefront; what would you do if someone started choking? The American Heart Association and various healthcare establishment are advocating for the use of lifesaving techniques that are easier and more convenient to learn. Choking kills about 5,000 Americans annually, while about 450,000 Americans die of cardiac arrest,mostly at home, work or in public rather than at a hospital. However, it is the assistance provided by the bystander which can make the difference between life and death.
For a person who is conscious but choking, the simplest and most effective action is still the Heimlich maneuver, a series of abdominal thrusts invented by thoracic surgeon Henry Heimlich.
Though the method is slightly different for the infant and the child; for the adult, here is what you do:
• Coming from behind, wrap your arms around the person’s waist.
• Make a fist and place the thumb side in the middle of the victim’s abdomen, just above the navel.
• Grasp your fist with your other hand, press hard into the abdomen and give a quick upward thrust into the upper abdomen, as if you were trying to lift the person. Repeat until object is expelled.
On the contrary, it is important to remember that for a person who starts choking and then loses consciousness; CPR must be started must be started immediately with the use of 30 compressions.
Enjoy the rest of your summer but always remember preparedness and knowledge of lifesaving techniques is critical in every situation.
Dr. Tracy A. Jones is an American Heart Association, ASHI, and American Red Cross Master Program Trainer, Instructor, & AHA Faculty Member located in San Antonio, Texas.