How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver (Abdominal Thrusts)

Abdominal thrusts—also known as the Heimlich maneuver—can be used to expel a foreign object lodged in a choking victim's windpipe.

You will need

  • Someone to call 911
  • Firm resolve

Step 1 Confirm choking Confirm the victim is choking. If they are coughing, they are not choking – yet – so encourage them to continue. Signs of choking include the universal hand sign of clutching one’s hands to the throat; the inability to cough or speak; labored or noisy breathing; bluish skin, lips, and nails; and loss of consciousness.

Step 2 Call 911 Once you determine the person is choking, act quickly but calmly. First, send someone to call 911.

Step 3 Help the victim stand Help the victim stand, if they’re not already on their feet, and stand behind them with your chest to their back.

Step 4 Wrap your arms around the victim Wrap your arms around the victim’s torso, making a fist with your dominant hand, and center it against the victim’s upper abdomen, thumb inward, above the navel and below the rib cage. With your other hand, cover your fist for support.

Step 5 Thrust inward and upward Quickly thrust inward and slightly upward with your fist, as if you’re trying to lift the victim off their feet, causing air to rush out of their lungs.

Step 6 Repeat Repeat the thrusts until the object dislodges, or the victim loses consciousness.

Step 7 Wait for medical help If the object does not come free and the victim loses consciousness, proceed with CPR until EMTs arrive.

Step 8 Save yourself To perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself, lean your upper abdomen over a hard horizontal surface (such as a railing or the back of a chair) and use it to deliver strong, upward thrusts.