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The Heimlich — a refresher course • Brooklyn Paper

The Heimlich — a refresher course

The near-death of a Park Slope girl who was choking on a butterscotch candy is a reminder to get a refresher course on the simple maneuver that saved her life: the Heimlich.

Invented in 1974 by Dr. Henry Jay Heimlich, the maneuver has saved 100,000 choking victims worldwide. It’s easy, but it’s important to do it properly. Here’s how:

1 — Scope it out: If someone is choking, that means his airwaves are at least partially blocked by an object — usually food that has accidentally gone down his trachea (wind pipe) instead of his esophagus (the one that goes to the stomach). In this case, you may notice symptoms such as gagging, panic, the victim clutching his throat, inability to talk, a blue hue around his lips, eyes or fingernail beds, the result of lack of oxygen. If the victim is coughing, encourage him to cough; it’s the best way to remove the object. If he is not coughing, that means his airway is completely blocked — and that it’s time for the Heimlich.

2 — Get situated: Stand up, position yourself behind the victim, then wrap your arms around him. Ball one hand into a fist and tuck it into the other, just above the victim’s belly button, but below his rib cage. If you feel the victim’s ribs, that means your fists are too high on his torso.

3 — Do the thrust: Push your fists in and pull up at the same time — using enough force to lift the person off the ground slightly. Do not squeeze the victim’s rib cage — instead, limit your force to your fists.

4 — Don’t stop: Thrust repeatedly until the object comes out — or the person becomes unconscious. If this occurs, flip the victim over onto his back and sit astride across his hips. Cross your hands, one over the other, place them on the victim’s torso — again, above his belly button and below his rib cage — and repeat the thrusting motion, this time using the heel of your bottom hand, and the weight of your body, to thrust upwards. Repeat until the object is expelled. If it doesn’t come out this time, proceed to CPR.

— Natalie O’Neill

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