The new techniques and advice on how to save someone from choking

Has anyone ever saved someone from choking? What steps did you take to do so?

2500 people die from choking in the US each year. With Thanksgiving coming up this week and everyone stuffing more food into their mouths than they should I wanted to research and learn about the best techniques to save someone from choking.

Side note, did you know that Thankgiving is the deadliest holiday in regards to automobile accidents? Don’t drive drunk, and be careful when you travel.

If someone says they are choking, they probably aren’t too bad because they are able to talk. If they can breath and say things, than keep an eye on them and tell them to try and cough it up. 

If they can’t speak, are having difficulty breathing, if their skin and lips are turning blue, or they lose consciousness then they do have a full on choking incident and you need to step in ASAP. 

Have someone call 911.

The American Red Cross has changed their advice on choking techniques in 2006 to first start out with back blows. If that doesn’t work, then you switch to the abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich Maneuver)

choking red cross

For abdominal thrusts, stand behind the person and place one foot between their two. Lean slightly back. You are setting up this position for the chance that they lose consciousness and fall. When you are in this position you can more easily support their weight and not fall over with them.


Wrap your arms around the waist, make a fist with one hand and aim the point of  your thumb into the area between their belly button and under the sternum. Grasp your fist with your other hand and in sharp firm squeezes thrust upwards like you are trying to lift the person up. 

Variations: For children you may have to kneel down to get to their level and instead of using both arms, just use your fist and with one hand thrust upwards if they are fairly small. For babies use 2-3 fingers when thrusting. See the above picture for positioning.

If you are related to Darth Vader and will be seeing him this Thanksgiving, try and avoid sensitive topics such as his deceased wife or sand. There’s not help saving you from that kind of choking.



  • Comments (8)

    • 6

      I have saved a toddler, which didn’t take much skill. I got her upside down quickly and the piece of hard candy slipped out before I had to advance to any back blows. And I actually saved myself in my teens as a piece of bacon wrapped around a filet mignon slipped back while at a restaurant with my parents. First I was trying to cough and be polite, until I realized I couldn’t breathe. My mom across the table tuned in quickly (my eye bulging fear a big clue) and began pushing my dad out of the booth who was in the midst of a story. I reached in far and pulled it free in a very impolite manner. Biofeedback helped here and that I didn’t have much of a gag reflex. All told it was probably 20 seconds.

      In the something’s caught but the person can breathe scenario, it helps to be soothing and encourage calm breathing in through the nose and forceful out through the mouth. Sometimes hyperventilating from stress can make someone suck it in further instead of getting it out.

      • 2

        Those are some good tips, I am glad I have never had to be around someone choking.

        In scouts I learned that if you are by yourself and choking to perform the heimlich on yourself by putting a table corner or chair edge into your sternum and dropping or ramming into it forcefully. I’m sure that it isn’t as effective as someone else helping you but it may be what you have to do.

    • 3

      I saw a video today of strangers saving the life of someone choking at what looks to be a food court. It reminded me of this forum post.

      Humans helping humans..
      byu/FoundationUseful270 inHumansBeingBros

      • 1

        It looks like the video will play here on the forum, but cuts off the bottom portion of the video. Click on it and go to the source to see the entire video better.

    • 2

      We had a user of the forum email us about a product called the Dechoker. It may not be something you would normally have around at home, but I can see it being in a school cafeteria so a teacher can save a choking kid, or if you have a child or grandparent that has been known to have issues with swallowing their food.

      Here’s a short video demonstrating how it works:

      • 1

        I had mentioned LifeVac which is a similar but simpler design. 

    • 1

      For infants under one year old, the recommended technique is choking rescue device.

      • 1

        That link is not working for me.