Medical Services Patients & Visitors Health Information For Medical Professionals Quality About Us
Text Size:  -   +  |  Print Page  |  Email Page

Abdominal thrusts


Choking is when someone is having a very hard time breathing because food, a toy, or other object is blocking the throat or windpipe (airway).

A choking person's airway may be blocked so that not enough oxygen reaches the lungs. Without oxygen, brain damage can occur in as little as 4 to 6 minutes. Rapid first aid for choking can save a person's life.

Abdominal thrusts is an emergency technique to help clear someone's airway.

  • The procedure is done on someone who is choking and also conscious.
  • Most experts do not recommend abdominal thrusts for infants less than 1 year old.
  • You can also perform the maneuver yourself.

Alternative Names

Choking - Heimlich maneuver

First Aid

First ask, "Are you choking? Can you speak?" DO NOT perform first aid if the person is coughing forcefully and is able to speak. A strong cough can often dislodge the object.

If the person is choking, perform abdominal thrusts as follows:

  • If the person is sitting or standing, position yourself behind the person and reach your arms around his or her waist. For a child, you may have to kneel.
  • Place your fist, thumb side in, just above the person's navel (belly button).
  • Grasp the fist tightly with your other hand.
  • Make quick, upward and inward thrusts with your fist.
  • If the person is lying on his or her back, straddle the person facing the head. Push your grasped fist upward and inward in a movement similar to the one above.

You may need to repeat the procedure several times before the object is dislodged. If repeated attempts do not free the airway, call 911.

If the person loses consciousness, start CPR.

If you are not comfortable performing abdominal thrusts, you can perform back blows instead on a person who is choking.


American Red Cross. First Aid/CPR/AED Participant's Manual. 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: American Red Cross; 2014.

Berg RA, Hemphill R, Abella BS, et al. Part 5: Adult basic life support: 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care. Circulation. 2010;122(18 Supple 3):S685-705. Available at:

Thomas SH, Goodloe JM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 60.

Review Date: 4/12/2015
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.