What is the Heimlich maneuver?

Heimlich maneuver is used to eject a stuck object from the airway. Every year, choking is responsible for causing deaths due to the obstruction of the airway that results to suffocation.

The technique lifts the diaphragm and expels air from the lungs. This helps expel the foreign object from the airway.

How to perform the Heimlich maneuver

Regardless of the victim, the individual requires medical help after. This will ensure that there is no physical damage to the airways and the throat.


If the individual choking is aware and able to cough, he/she might be able to displace the object on his/her own.

Person not pregnant or an infant

Check if there is a need to execute abdominal thrusts. If the individual choking is aware and able to cough, he/she might be able to displace the object on his/her own. Perform first aid if the individual is:

  • Not coughing
  • Unable to breathe or speak
  • Signaling for help by holding hands around the throat

If bystanders are around, ask one to call for emergency assistance. If you are the only one present, start first aid care:

  • Help the individual stand up
  • Position behind the individual
  • Lean the individual forward and perform 5 back blows to the back using the heel of your hand
  • Position your arms around the waist of the individual
  • Create a fist with your hand and position above the navel with the thumb side in
  • Hold your fist with the other hand and drive it inward and upward at the same time. Perform 5 abdominal thrusts.
  • Repeat the process until the foreign object is expelled and the individual can cough or breathe on his/her own.

Pregnant women

For pregnant women, you should place your hand slightly higher on the torso, around the base of the breastbone.

If unconscious, position on his/her back in a lying position and try to unclog the airway using the finger in a sweeping gesture. If the object could not be removed, perform CPR.


For a choking infant younger than 1 year old, the following steps must be done:

  • You should take a seat and position the infant facing down on the forearm which must be leaning on the thigh.
  • Perform 5 back blows in a gentle manner using the heel of your hand
  • If this is not effective, place the infant facing up and resting on the forearm and thigh so that the head is lower than the trunk.
  • Place 2 fingers at the middle of the breastbone and deliver 5 rapid chest compressions.
  • Repeat the back blows and chest thrusts until the object is expelled and the child can breathe or cough on his/her own.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on the Heimlich maneuver is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly perform this life-saving technique, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.


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