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Nurses Share Their Tips for What to Do When You’re Choking and Alone

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Choking remains the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. Some 5,000 people die from choking-related accidents every year. Having another person perform CPR isn’t an option when you’re alone. We asked millions of nurses to share their advice on what to do in this situation and here’s what they had to say:

I’ve told everyone to get on the floor like you’re gonna do a push up and let go. Plus, you’re in a prone position so that may help.

Carrie

Use the corner of a table. I choked when I was a kid, the person babysitting me thought I was joking around. I was panicked, I threw myself without holding back into the corner of the dining room table, the food dislodged.

Amanda

My dad did the abdominal thrust on himself once! Called 911, obviously unable to speak though, smashed his abdomen against a counter, dislodged the item and then said to the dispatcher, “Never mind, have a nice day.” ??

Michelle

I was driving home after my hospital shift was over and eating a sandwich too quickly (hadn’t eaten all day). I started choking so I slowed the car down, while hurling myself onto my steering wheel, as hard as I could manage. It worked because that part of the sandwich that I had been choking on flew out of my mouth and splattered on the windshield!! I was fine after that. FYI: I was a CPR instructor.

Shari

Self-Heimlich over the back of the chair… keep coughing a deep throaty cough… and keep your cell phone GPS on and dial 911.

Tamra

I used the corner of the sofa, the hard part to do an abdominal thrust. Thankfully I managed to get it up (a bloody pistachio nut). I was in a state for a good while after. Was horrible!

I’m a BLS (basic cardiac life support) trainer for the NHS (National Health Service) here in Scotland and I always teach choking maneuvers! I’m not obliged to, but we all know it’s far more common than cardiac or respiratory arrest!

Rxchie

It happened to me – I immediately panicked but remembered my first aid training and did the abdominal thrust on myself. I threw up what was lodged in my throat, opening my airway. I shook, cried and was very upset for a while afterward obviously with the traumatic event, but grateful I survived!

Stacie

Find a chair with a firm back and perform the Heimlich is what we were taught in CPR training.

Christa

Slam yourself into the back of a chair. Call 911 and leave the phone on and bang it or make noise so they know you’re there and can’t speak. Get out of the house so hopefully a neighbor will see you. If inside, at least unlock/open the door for paramedics. Text someone.

Brittnay

Self-Heimlich by ramming the abdominal area below ribs against the corner of a table or similar object in order to create a rapid flow of air to cause ejection of foreign material.

Mary

This happened to me, I ran around the kitchen in a panic, and it came out. I do not recommend this method. Lol ?

Aimy

Use a travel coffee thermos/bottle to do abdominal thrusts.

Jennifer

I did a self-Heimlich over a trash barrel, and it worked, the chairs were too high. ?

Laura

Slam yourself against a wall. My CPR instructor tells us every year and he’s had people come back and thank him for the advice.

Anastasia

This happened to me when I was a teen. I remembered my first aid course and used a chair to thrust to clear the object. Here today, so it worked! Had bruises for days…

Genn

My advice, go outside and call 911.

I’ve heard the chair advice but don’t know if it really works.

Even if you can’t talk, 911 will respond.

If you’re on your cell phone in your house, GPS may not pinpoint the exact house so they will find you easier if you’re outside and maybe a neighbor can help.

Dean

Thank you to everyone who shared their advice online. Chew slowly and don’t be afraid to ask for help in an emergency.

These responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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