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Let’s Talk Turkey-First Aid For Choking

Posted September 4, 2013 | Filed under topic Health Insurance Information

In today’s fast paced world it is not uncommon to find people literally scarfing down their food.  When we do not chew our food carefully and slowly it increases the risk of aspirating in a small piece of food that can get lodged in the throat, or the windpipe, blocking the flow of air and causing us to choke on our food.  Choking is serious because it cuts off the oxygen supply to the brain.  When someone is choking it is important to apply first aid immediately.  Here are some refresher guidelines for how to handle choking.


The universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat. If you cannot see a signal, look for the following indications that the person is choking:

  • Inability to talk
  • Inability to cough forcefully
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing

If the person is choking, use the Red Cross “five and five” method to deliver first aid:

  • Give 5 back blows
    Deliver five back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
  • Give 5 abdominal thrusts
    Perform five abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver)
  • Alternate 5 blows and 5 thrusts
    Continue the blows and thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.

If you have not learned how to deliver the back blows it is okay to only use the abdominal thrusts. Both methods work and are acceptable.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Someone Else

  1. Stand Behind the person
    Place your arms around the waist of the other person. Tip the person slightly forward.
  2. Make a fist with one hand
    Place your fist slightly above the person’s navel.
  3. Grasp the fist with the other hand
    Press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust-as if trying to lift the person up.
  4. Perform a total of 5 abdominal thrusts
    Do a set of five thrusts. If the blockage isn’t cleared, repeat the five abdominal thrusts, or do five back blows and then repeat five thrusts. Continue until emergency helps arrives or the blockage gets cleared.

If you are alone, perform the five back blows and 5 thrusts before calling for emergency help. If someone else is present have them call while you perform the blows and thrusts.  If the person is pregnant or obese position your hands slightly higher at the base of the breastbone, just above the joining of the lowest ribs.  Proceed as normal with the thrusts.

If the person becomes unconscious then you should begin CPR with chest compressions and rescue breathing.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Yourself

If you are alone, call 911 first if you have a landline. You probably won’t be able to talk.  You will not be able to do back blows but you can do thrusts to dislodge the item.

  • Place a fist above your navel or a little higher up if you are obese  or pregnant.
  • Grasp your fist with your other hand and bend over a hard surface- a countertop, or a chair.
  • Shove your fist inward and upward

Although we don’t like to think about illness or emergencies that can lead to long term hospitalization or care, accidents and emergencies happen that we can not foresee. That is why it is important to prepare for those unforeseen circumstances.

You may have health insurance through your employer. You should check your coverage every year. With the Affordable Care Act, if you are not eligible to receive health care insurance through your employer, you can now purchase health insurance through the heath care exchange. The state exchanges offer various health care policies. You can shop around for the best health care and the lowest cost premiums through the exchange.  You can also contact an insurance agent who can assist you in locating the right health care coverage at the best price for you and your family.

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