If you've ever been at a dinner party and one of your guests or hosts started choking on their food, then you'll know how frightening this can be. While you might think that that bit of carrot is innocuous and harmless enough, the reality is that it can be fatal. Even a small piece of food if swallowed the wrong way can block the windpipe to a significant extent that's enough to cause complete suffocation.
Luckily, we all know what to do in that situation: run to our friend's aid and thump them in the back, or perform the Heimlich maneuver.
But what if you start choking and there's no one around to help?
What the Heimlich Maneuver Does
The basic idea behind the Heimlich maneuver is really rather simple. To perform it, you need to approach your friend from behind, wrap your arms around their stomach forming a fist in the middle, and then pull in suddenly and upward to try and compress their abdominal cavity. In doing so, you cause the lungs to compress which forces air outwards through the process of equalization.
In other words, it's like squeezing a bottle to force air out the top and if you do this forcefully enough, you'll be able to dislodge whatever food is trapped in the windpipe.
How to 'Self-Heimlich'
If you're on your own then and you're trying to get rid of whatever's trapped, you need to find some way of forcing air out of your own lungs. Short of tying a rope around your stomach and around a tree, there's not any obvious way to do this.
Thankfully though, there is a less obvious method you can use. Here, you are going to get into press up position but with your knees touching the floor, as though you were doing an easier variation of the press up.
Instead of doing press ups though, you're going to throw your hands up in the air and allow yourself to impact with the ground stomach/chest first. This impact may well be enough to force you to powerfully and suddenly exhale and to fire the food out of your throat like a pee shooter in the process.
Note and Tips
When using this technique, make sure that you commit. Most of us will have a natural aversion to slamming our bodies down on the ground because it hurts. Remember though, the alternative is choking to death, so this is definitely preferable.
This method is not 100% effective – no technique is. It's likely the best option you have though if you're completely alone. The ideal situation is still to get someone to perform the Heimlich.
Note as well that this method may not work for those who are very overweight and isn't advisable for those who are pregnant. In these cases, an alternative option may be to try falling backwards but make sure you take considerable care when doing so.