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Each year hundreds of diners needlessly die in restaurants because no one present knew how to handle the emergency. By learning how to perform the relatively simple Heimlich Maneuver for adults and large children as outlined below, you may someday save a life, perhaps your own.
Cafe coronary, as this accident is sometimes called, occurs when a piece of meat or other object becomes lodged in the throat. Unless the victim is aided, he or she will likely die in about four minutes. You must act promptly.
It is critical that you do not misdiagnose the emergency'. The symptoms of a choking victim are clear. The sufferer desperately clutches his or her throat, is unable to breathe or speak, and will start turning blue and eventually lose consciousness. If the victim can talk or breathe, he or she is probably experiencing a different type of crisis such as a heart attack.
The Standing Position: If the victim is conscious or can be lifted, use this (or the sitting position) technique:
- Stand behind the standing victim. - Wrap your arms around the victim's waist.
- Make a fist with one hand. Position it so that your thumb is against the victim's abdomen between the navel and the rib cage.
- Grasp your fist with your free hand.
- Using a quick backward-upward thrust, pull your covered fist into the victim's abdomen (your goal is to dislodge the obstruction in the throat by forcing air out of the lungs into the windpipe).
Repeat this maneuver as often as necessary. Use increased force on each attempt.
The Sitting Position: Basically, this maneuver is identical to the standing one except that the victim is in a chair while you stand or kneel behind it.
The Supine Position: Should the victim be unconscious and cannot be lifted, use this technique:
- Roll the victim on his or her back.
- Kneel over the victim by straddling his or her thighs.
- Place the heel of one of your hands on the victim's abdomen between the navel and the rib cage.
- Cover that hand with your free hand.
- Using a quick downward-forward thrust, press your covered hand into the victim's abdomen.
Repeat this maneuver as often as is necessary. Use increased force on each attempt.
The Self-Help Technique: Perform the standing maneuver on yourself by pulling your covered fist into your abdomen with a quick backward-upward thrust. Repeat if necessary.
Once the obstacle is cleared, a set of car keys is usually the best first-aid item. Rush the victim to a doctor for examination for possible internal injuries.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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