New research published today in medical journal Thorax has shown that using the Heimlich manoeuvre on yourself can generate enough pressure to treat choking.
According to the study it can be as effective as when delivered by a first-aider, and it’s even safe for pregnant women to perform on themselves.
The authors of the study say that this new information could save many lives.
Dr. Nick Hopkinson, from The Royal Brompton Hospital said: “Choking can be a cause of sudden death in a perfectly healthy person. There may be only a few minutes to save a life.
“It is important to raise awareness of what to do if you are with someone who is choking and especially if you are by yourself and choking.
“We would like to see the self-administered technique taught on first aid courses and in schools. Posters in every restaurant and training for restaurant staff could help save lives.”
The Heimlich manoeuvre is often needed when a patient is choking on food or other objects, and their airway is obstructed.
Usually, a first-aider would place their arms around the choking person from behind, and pull upwards and inwards on the abdomen below the ribcage. The pressure from this movement can expel the obstruction, allowing the patient to breathe again.
However, new guidelines should illustrate how to deal with choking when nobody else is around. Chokers are advised to either push their abdomen abruptly onto the back of a chair, which provides the same effect as the manoeuvre offered by a first-aider.
Alternatively they can deliver a thrust by hand to their own abdominal area.
Doctors swallowed special pressure catheters and then studied, on each other, the pressure generated in the chest and stomach for all three techniques. They found equal effectiveness in all three measures.
Professor Sir Malcolm Green said: “People are often embarrassed when they start to choke and move away from their friends to somewhere private, to the toilets or out on to the street, and that can result in their death.
“We need to make sure they stay where they are and know how to do the manoeuvre on themselves or over the chair they have just been sitting on.”