10:17 AM

Don't Choke When Planning for Summer Fun

Knowing the proper technique for Heimlich maneuver can save a life

Summer is the season for family fun. Road trips to the beach, amusement parks and visiting relatives and friends. Often the hectic schedule can lead all of us to let down our guard when it come to prevention and safety.

That's why it's important to always have a first aid kit handy. You should also have emergency numbers within reach, and know where hospitals and medical facilities are located in areas you travel.  

Time, however, can be critical when a situation calls for immediate action - like when someone is choking. Choking is the third leading cause of death in American homes and the leading cause of death for children.

The Heimlich maneuver is considered the standard and most effective way of freeing an object from a person's throat or esophagus.

OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center Director of EMS, Dr. Jane Pearson, says proper technique is important for two reasons.

"To be effective, you need a burst of air and so, you can't do it gently or gradually," says Dr. Pearson. "You've got to do it somewhat forcefully, and create that burst if air out of your lungs, which will pop the object that's choking you out of your airway.

"The other part," she adds, "is because you have to do it forecefully, you need to do it in the proper location to avoid abdominal injury, particularly to your liver or other internal organs".

Dr. Jane Pearson on heimlich

Training in the Heimlich maneuver is recommended, but understanding the basic steps is effective in an emergency. OSF Lifeline Ambulance Critical Care Medics Supervisor, David Loria and Lifeline Ambulance Supervisor Mikal Maronde demonstrate. 

"The proper technique for the Heimlich maneuver is come around them.You're going to feel for the sternum. just below the sternum," says Maronde. "You'll place your fist - take your other hand underneath - you're going to pull in and up, in and up in one motion, in and up, just like that. Which will release, the burst will release the object out of the airway".

OSF Mission Partners (employees) demonstrate the Heimlich maneuver

Dr. Pearson says Heimlich training is provided in CPR classes, offered through OSF HealthCare medical centers, as well as your local fire departments and the American Red Cross.