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One high-school student may have saved his classmate’s life because he’d just been instructed in the Heimlich maneuver. Would you be able to help a choking victim? Learn the signs of choking and how to respond.
“The thing you have to understand is that if you have an object blocking your airway, you can’t talk,” explains ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork. Choking victims can’t ask for help -- gestures like grabbing at or clutching the throat are signs that something might be seriously wrong.
The American Red Cross recommends a “five and five” technique to help a choking victim. Have them stand and bend at the waist while you deliver five back thrusts, followed by five abdominal thrusts while they stand upright, alternating until the victim can breathe or help arrives. The video above shows the correct technique.
If you’re alone and find yourself choking, you can even perform the Heimlich on yourself! Find a sturdy chair and press the area below your diaphragm. “You can potentially get enough air out of your lungs to expel that object,” explains Dr. Stork.
“We often don’t think we’ll find ourselves in an emergency situation, but that’s why they call them emergencies – they’re unpredictable,” Dr. Stork notes. Ob/Gyn Dr. Nita Landry adds, “95 percent of choking deaths occur in the home environment.” If a family member chokes, knowing what to do can be a literal lifesaver.