Topic Overview

A person who is choking cannot talk, cough, or breathe, and may turn grey or blue. The Heimlich manoeuvre can help get the food or object out. WARNING: Do not try the Heimlich manoeuvre unless you are sure the person is choking.

If the person can cough or make sounds, let him or her cough to try to get the object out. If you are worried about the person's breathing, call 911.

If the person can't breathe, cough, or make sounds, then:

  • Stand or kneel behind the person and wrap your arms around his or her waist. If the person is standing, place one of your legs between his or her legs so you can support the person if he or she faints.
  • Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your fist against the person's belly, just above the belly button but well below the breastbone. See picture A.
  • Grasp your fist with the other hand. Give a quick upward thrust into the belly. This may cause the object to pop out. You may need to use more force for a large person and less for a child or small adult. See picture B.
  • Repeat thrusts until the object pops out or the person faints.
Picture of choking rescue procedure (Heimlich manoeuvre) fist position

Illustration copyright 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Picture A

Picture of choking rescue procedure (Heimlich manoeuvre)

Picture B


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD

Current as ofMay 22, 2015