Editor’s Note:  “Be Prepared” may be the motto of the Boy Scouts, but it is applicable to each of us. There is nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness when you see someone needing emergency help and not knowing what to do. As with every medical emergency, have someone call 911 to get certified medical professionals to the scene while you render immediate assistance. 

by Andrew Pacholyk

The universal sign for choking is hands clutched to the throat. If the person doesn’t give the signal, look for these indications:

-Inability to talk -Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing -Inability to cough forcefully -Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky -Loss of consciousness

The Heimlich maneuver is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person’s airway (windpipe) becomes blocked by a piece of food or other object.

It can be used safely on both adults and children, but most experts do not recommend it for infants less than 1 year old. You can also perform the maneuver on yourself.

If choking is occurring, the Red Cross recommends a “five-and-five” approach to delivering first aid:

First, deliver FIVE back blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

Second, perform FIVE abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich Maneuver).

Third, alternate between FIVE back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.

The Heimlich Maneuver

To perform the Heimlich Maneuver on someone else:

1. Stand behind the person. Wrap your arms around the waist. Tip the person forward slightly.

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