Heimlich manoeuvre is an emergency technique used when food gets stuck in the airways. Choking on food is a common emergency that can cause acute respiratory obstruction. Inadequately chewed food, e.g. a piece of meat or other solid foods like peanuts may be swallowed inadvertently. The usual result is panic, accompanied by the inability to speak, noisy breathing and respiratory distress, cyanosis (blueness) and fainting. Lay persons in the vicinity may assume that the person is having a fatal heart attack.
The following treatment is started on an emergency basis:
• If the victim is a child, grasp by the legs and hold him upside down for a moment; the foreign body may be dislodged.
• If the foreign body is in the throat, it may be possible to reach it with fingers, dislodge the obstruction and remove it. However, if breathing is possible and not much obstructed, interference should be minimal or avoided until professional help arrives.
• Heimlich Manoeuvre should be done immediately. Heimlich Manoeuvre is done to remove the foreign body from the throat or trachea, where it is preventing flow of air to the lungs.
The following is the procedure of Heimlich Manoeuvre –
Step 1 of Heimlich Manoeuvre –
Wrap your arms round the victim’s waist from behind.
Step 2 of Heimlich Manoeuvre –
Make a fist with one hand and place it against the victim’s abdomen above the navel but below the ribs.
Step 3 of Heimlich Manoeuvre –
Clasp your fist with the other hand and press in with a quick forceful upward thrust.
Step 4 of Heimlich Manoeuvre –
Repeat several times, if necessary. The technique can be self-applied, if nobody is around.
• Heimlich Manoeuvre is quite effective and life-saving in dislodging the obstruction by forcing air against the foreign body much as pressure from a carbonated beverage will forcibly remove a cork or cap from a bottle.
• Tracheotomy may be necessary, if the Heimlich Manoeuvre fails.
• If the foreign body lodges lower down in a bronchus, corresponding portion of the lung collapses causing acute respiratory distress. Such a foreign body may have to be removed through bronchoscopy, otherwise lung abscess may form when infection supervenes.