Choke no more: the Heimlich Maneuver saves lives

November 14, 2013

HOUSTON, November 14, 2013 – It’s no doubt that the Heimlich Maneuver saves lives – it has saved Cher, Former President Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor and Goldie Hawn from choking to death.

The Heimlich Maneuver is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person’s airway becomes blocked by a piece of food or another object. Because choking cuts off oxygen to the brain, it’s important to act quickly to dislodge the object.

“The Heimlich Maneuver is a life-saving technique that can be used on both adults and children,” said George Kiss, MD and medical director at Harris County Emergency Corps. “You can even perform the maneuver on yourself.”

Choking and suffocation is the third leading cause of home and community death in the United States, according to the National Safety Council.

How do you know if someone is choking? The universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat. If the person doesn’t give the signal, look for the following signs:

–        Inability to talk

–        Difficulty breathing

–        Inability to cough

–        Skin, lips and nails turning blue

–        Loss of consciousness

“Brain damage begins after approximately four minutes without oxygen. It is extremely important to utilize the Heimlich Maneuver and call 9-1-1 as quickly as possible if you believe someone is choking,” said Dr. Kiss.

For a conscious person who is sitting or standing, position yourself behind the person and reach your arms around his or her waist.

–        Place your fist, thumb side in, just above the person’s navel and grab the fist tightly with your other hand.

–        Pull your fist abruptly upward and inward to increase airway pressure behind the obstructing object and force it from the windpipe.

–        If the person is conscious and lying on his or her back, straddle the person facing the head. Push your grasped fist upward and inward in a maneuver similar to the one above.

–        You may need to repeat the procedure several times before the object is dislodged.

For a choking infant, lay the child down face up on a firm surface.

–        Place the middle and index fingers of both hands below the rib cage and above the navel.

–        Press into the upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust (do not squeeze the rib cage).

–        You may need to repeat until the object is dislodged.

If you would like further training, such as CPR/First Aid Certification or First Responder Training for businesses, call 281-449-3131. For more information about Harris County Emergency Corps, visit

About Harris County Emergency Corps

Harris County Emergency Corps (HCEC) is a nonprofit, EMS provider, responding to 9-1-1 emergency medical calls to approximately 400,000 citizens of Northern Harris County. HCEC is a premier emergency medical services organization committed to preserving lives through clinical excellence, progressive medicine, and professional service. For more information, visit