The Heimlich maneuver is a first aid procedure used when a person is choking. If you are alone and you are choking, you can try to dislodge the item in your throat or windpipe by performing the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.
When you are choking, your airway may be blocked so that not enough oxygen reaches the lungs. Without oxygen, brain damage can occur in as little as 4 to 6 minutes. Rapid first aid for choking can save your life.
If you are choking on something, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself. Follow these steps:
- Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb of that hand below your rib cage and above your navel.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand. Press your fist forcibly into the upper abdominal area with a quick upward movement.
You can also lean over a table edge, chair, or railing. Quickly thrust your upper belly area (upper abdomen) against the edge.
If you need to, repeat this motion until the object blocking your airway comes out.
Choking first aid is a related topic.
Braithwaite SA, Wessel AL. Dyspnea. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 21.
Driver DE, Reardon RF. Basic airway management and decision making. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 3.
Rose E. Pediatric upper airway obstruction and infections. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 162.
Review Date 4/1/2023
Updated by: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.