There was a time when the Red Cross and others recommended “the Heimlich maneuver” as the first thing to do when discovering a person is choking, but still conscious (or, as the Red Cross calls it, “conscious choking.”) Today the term “Heimlich maneuver” is no longer used by the Red Cross (it’s now called “abdominal thrusts”) and they now recommend taking several steps before resorting to such thrusts, as no matter what it’s called, the Heimlich can result in broken ribs, and worse. And there are less harmful approaches to try before going straight to abdominal thrusts.

In the event of a conscious employee choking at your small business, here are the five steps to take now recommended by the Red Cross.

1. Asses the situation and condition of the person.


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If you encounter a conscious individual who might be choking, encourage them to cough. If the victim is unable to cough, speak or breathe do the following:

2. Call 9-1-1.


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If there is someone besides you and the choking victim, immediately send them to call 9-1-1. If you are alone with a conscious choking victim only call 9-1-1 after or if you are unable to give them back blows or abdominal thrusts.

3. Administer 5 back blowsvictim

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Communicate to the victim before hand what you are doing, then lean them forward and give them 5 back blows.

4.  Administer 5 abdominal thrusts


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If back blows don’t work or the choking appears to be getting worse you need to perform abdominal thrusts on the choking victim. Here is how the Red Cross describes how to perform abdominal thrusts:

  • Get behind the person and position your thigh between their legs so that you can brace your hip against their lower back.
  • Reach your arms around them and make a fist with one hand, covering it with the other.
  • Position your interlocked hands against the person’s abdomen (about 3 inches above their belly button).
  • Keep your elbows pointing out and in one motion quickly thrust your fist in and upwards.

5. Repeat


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Repeat abdominal thrusts until the object that the person is choking on is forced out and they return to their normal breathing again. 

(This information provided by the American Red Cross)

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