The Heimlich technique is an emergency method used to remove foreign objects trapped in the respiratory tract. Heimlich's technique is used in cases where a person cannot breathe as a result of such objects entering the respiratory tract. Foreign body oxygen starvation from airway obstruction can result in permanent brain damage or death in four minutes or less. Heimlich's reception can save the life of a victim of suffocation.
When the Heimlich trick is performed
This first aid method is not performed on children under one year of age. Indications for its use for airway blockages include the following:
- inability to cough or speak
- blue or purple complexion due to lack of oxygen,
- weak cough and shortness of breath,
- everything described above with the subsequent loss of consciousness.
Every year, a huge number of people, among whom tens of thousands of infants and older children, are admitted to hospital emergency departments with strangulation incidents. More than 80 percent of them are children aged four and under. Death from airway obstruction and related injuries is especially common in children as young as four due to their anatomy (small airways), natural curiosity, a tendency to put objects in their mouths, and poor chewing skills. In young children, suffocation usually occurs as a result of inhaling small objects (such as coins or small toys and their parts) that they pull into their mouths.
How the Heimlich technique appeared
In 1974, Henry Heimlich first described the technique of pushing out foreign material blocking the trachea. This method, now called the Heimlich trick, is simple enough and can be performed by any trained person. Heimlich's reception is a standard part of first aid for rescuers and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation training courses. The theory of Heimlich's technique is based on the fact that when the abdomen is compressed below the level of the diaphragm with the execution of quick abdominal thrusts, an "artificial cough" is caused. Air is pushed out of the lungs and knocks the obstruction (foreign object) from the trachea into the mouth. Heimlich's technique can be performed on all people; however, there are certain issues when it is performed in infants, children, obese people and pregnant women.
Interestingly, in all his life, Henry Heimlich never once performed the technique of his name in practice.
Naturally, he often showed it on dummies and volunteers during demonstrations, but Dr. Heimlich only got a chance to save the lives of a gasping man in 2016.
While having dinner at the hotel restaurant, he noticed that his peer was suffocating. Without a moment's hesitation, he rushed to the rescue, ahead of the hotel employee Perry Gaines by a couple of seconds (who, by the way, had already had to save her life with the Heimlich reception)
After completing the reception of his name, Henry finished the dinner.
The rescued old woman became a local celebrity, and Henry shared his joy in saving someone else's life in an interview. Listening to the weakening old man's voice, it is difficult to imagine how quick this grandfather can be.
Correct execution of the Heimlich trick
In order to perform the Heimlich technique, it is necessary to go behind the victim, who can sit or stand at the same time. The person providing assistance moves a hand, clenched into a fist on one side, and places it with his thumb on the victim below the chest and above the waist. Then he grabs the waist with his other hand, placing it over his fist, and performs a series of five quick, tangible in and up thrusts. If the foreign object does not move, the cycle of five jolts is repeated until the object is pushed out. As the victim is deprived of oxygen, the muscles in his trachea relax, and it is possible that a foreign object may be pushed out on the second or third attempt.
If the victim has lost consciousness
If the victim is unconscious or loses consciousness, the first aider should put him on the floor, bend his chin forward, making sure that the tongue does not block the airways, being careful not to press on them, place his hands between the lower part of the sternum and abdomen victims in the navel and perform a series of five quick pressure-pressing inward and upward. After abdominal thrusts, the rescuer repeats the chin lifting process by moving the tongue, groping and, if possible, removing the foreign object from the mouth. If the airway has not cleared, the series of abdominal thrusts should be repeated as often as necessary. If the foreign object has been removed but the victim is not breathing, artificial respiration should be initiated.
Heimlich's reception for children and obese people
The technique for performing the Heimlich technique in children over one year old is, in principle, the same as in adults, except that the amount of force applied should be less in order to avoid damage to the ribs, sternum and internal organs of the rescued person.
The main difference in performing the Heimlich trick in obese people is the placement of the fists. Instead of using abdominal thrusts, the emphasis is on the chest. At the same time, the fists are located against the middle of the sternum, and the direction of the push in relation to the chest is downward, not upward. If the victim is unconscious, blows to the chest resemble the technique of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In the same way, the Heimlich technique is performed on pregnant women with a bulging belly.
Performing the Heimlich technique in infants
The Heimlich reception, as described above, is not performed on children under one year of age. Instead, a series of kickbacks and thrusts to the chest are used. The first aid provider sits down and places the infant facedown on his thigh, supporting the baby with one hand and making five quick strokes on the back between the shoulder blades with the other. After carrying out a series of back blows, the child is turned face up, supporting with the hand. Using the free hand, her index and middle fingers are placed in the center of the sternum and give five quick thrusts and continue until the child's trachea is released. If the child loses consciousness, CPR should be started.
Heimlich's trick: how to help yourself
There are situations when a choked person is alone, or others are confused and do not know what to do. In this case, you can (and should) help yourself on your own. To do this, put a hand clenched into a fist with the side where the thumb is, put on the stomach between the navel and the costal arches. Place the palm of the other hand over the fist and press the fist into the stomach with a quick upward push. Repeat the thrusts several times until the airways are free.
Instead of a fist, you can use any horizontal object, for example, the back of a chair or chair, the edge of a table, etc. Lean on it and push upward in the epigastric region.
Precautions when performing the Heimlich trick
Anyone can be trained to perform the Heimlich trick. Before performing it, it is important to determine if the airway is completely blocked. If the victim of suffocation is likely to speak or cry, the Heimlich trick should not be performed. If the airway is not completely blocked, the victim should try to cough to remove the foreign object. When performing the Heimlich technique, vomiting may occur. All infants and children after its use should be taken to the hospital and checked for respiratory tract injuries.
Risks and consequences
Incorrectly applied Heimlich technique can break bones or damage internal organs. The person doing it should never try to reach the stuck object with his hands. This will probably push it further down the trachea. After taking Heimlich, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and obstructive pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) may occur.
In many cases, after removing a foreign object using the Heimlich technique from the throat, the victim does not experience any permanent consequences. If the foreign object is not removed in time, irreversible brain damage from lack of oxygen and death is possible.
Since most cases of choking occur in the home, the child's parents must be trained in the Heimlich technique. The likelihood of suffocation can be reduced by closely supervising children. Most cases of choking are food-related, especially candy, grapes, nuts, popcorn and carrots. Hazardous items include deflated balloons, buttons, coins, small balloons, small toys, small toy parts.
Denial of responsibility: The information provided in this article on how to perform the Heimlich trick correctly is intended only to inform the reader. It cannot be a substitute for the advice of a healthcare professional.