The Heimlich maneuver

Published: August, 2006

Use the Heimlich maneuver when someone is choking on something and cannot cough or speak — that means the person cannot breathe. Another sign is if the skin begins to turn blue. In these circumstances, the Heimlich maneuver can be lifesaving. Here's how to do it.

For an adult who is standing or sitting:

  • Stand behind the person and wrap your arms around his or her waist.

  • While making a fist, press your thumb into the person's abdomen, just above the navel but below the ribcage.

  • Wrap your other hand around your fist and then thrust upward quickly into the person's upper abdomen to expel the object.

  • Repeat until the object is expelled.

For yourself:

  • Stand behind a sturdy chair, grasping the top with both hands.

  • Place your upper abdomen against the top of the chair.

  • Thrust your body weight forcefully and rapidly against the chair. Repeat until the object is dislodged.

© Harriet Greenfield

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »