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How to save the life of someone who's choking

Would you know what to do if you saw someone choking? Jeff Rossen shows how to save a life when seconds count.
/ Source: TODAY

Would you know what to do if you saw someone choking on food? What if it was a child?

Tuesday on TODAY, Dr. Holly Andersen, a cardiologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, showed TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen the proper procedures when someone is choking.

  • If you see someone who is choking, coughing and making noise, don't slap them on the back. "That could further lodge the food, causing a total obstruction of the airway," Andersen explained.
  • Perform the Heimlich maneuver. Wrap your arms around the choking victim's waist from behind. With your strongest arm, make a fist with your thumb up and and put it above the choking victim's navel, below their sternum. Grasp the fist with your other hand and thrust up and down, up and down, until the food or object is dislodged.
  • If the victim is less than 8 years old (but not an infant), do the same thing with just one arm.
  • If the victim is an infant less than a year old, sit down with the infant face down on your forearm and your thigh. With your other hand, thrust on the infant's back with the palm of your hand, checking to see if you have dislodged the object from the infant's airway.
  • If you are alone and choking, you can perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself. Use a kitchen counter, a desktop or a chair to apply pressure to the area above your navel and below your sternum repeatedly to force the food out, or take your fist in the same way and thrust it up underneath your sternum.
  • Another tip if you are alone and choking: Call 911 even if you can't speak. Keep the line open so police can track the signal and send paramedics to your location.
  • Always watch what children put in their mouths. They are at the greatest risk of choking because their windpipes are so small. The foods children choke on most often: hard candy and hot dogs.

Editor's Note: The American Red Cross says: “If you encounter a conscious, choking individual that is coughing, encourage continued coughing. If the victim is unable to cough, speak, or breathe, complete these steps.

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