Take a look at American Red Cross posters that show how to save a choking person’s life and you’ll find a common medical term conspicuously absent.
For many years, the American Red Cross had recommended the Heimlich maneuver as the preferred method for clearing an obstructed airway when a person is choking.
This was the method that had been popularized by physician Henry Heimlich back in the ‘70s, utilizing a series of under-the-diaphragm abdominal thrusts, which lifted the diaphragm and forced enough air from the lungs to create an artificial cough. The cough was then intended to move and expel an obstructing foreign body in an airway.
This all changed in 2005 when the organization released new guidelines for saving choking victims. The Red Cross now recommends a series of five back blows and then five abdominal thrusts to aid a conscious choking victim — nowhere mentioning the term “Heimlich maneuver.”
The thrusting motion is similar to the thrust used in the Heimlich maneuver, but the overall regimen is different, according to American Red Cross spokesperson Denise Bowles of the Flint chapter.
Referring to the motion as an “abdominal thrust” and not the Heimlich maneuver helps people to get an actual
picture of what is being done for a victim in terms people can visualize and understand.
What is a back blow?
To perform a back blow, a person should bend the choking individual forward slightly, cradle them around the shoulder with the left arm, and use the heel of the other hand to give five blows between the shoulder blades.
If the object is not forced out, the American Red Cross suggests that the rescuer use five abdominal thrusts by standing behind the individual, holding the hands together below the sternum, and giving upward abdominal thrusts.
Several key organizations, including the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association, have changed their stance on the use of the Heimlich maneuver, especially at it stands with regard to use in near-drowning victims, although the American Heart Association continues to espouse its use for choking victims over the age of one.
The American Red Cross follows the American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Emergency Cardiac Care (ECC) guidelines, which state that if a near-drowning victim is not breathing, the rescuer should initiate CPR immediately.
If the ventilation efforts do not make the victim’s chest rise, the rescuer should attempt to clear the airway by using age-appropriate methods for relief of foreign body airway obstruction.
For more information, visit the American Red Cross website at www.geneseelapeer-redcross.org to view their full Advisory Council on First Aid and Safety statement.