Heimlich Maneuver for Drowning

Published January 1, 2004

Drowning is choking on water. The Heimlich maneuver for drowning is the same maneuver we learned years ago for choking on food.

Here are eight reasons why the Heimlich maneuver is right for drowning victims:

1. It causes water to gush suddenly out of the drowning victim’s mouth, and breathing begins again.

2. It is the only way to remove water from lungs–and you cannot force air into water-filled lungs.

3. You can learn the maneuver in 10 minutes from a friend, or you can read the directions in a home dictionary.

4. No helper or equipment is needed–one person can do it alone.

5. It works fast. Doing four maneuvers in only 10 seconds causes water to gush out. A delay of three to five minutes can result in brain damage.

6. It can be done when the victim is in chest-deep or shallow water.

7. The victim can be flat on his back on the ground, on a swimming pool deck, or in a boat or canoe.

8. No other technique has approached the 97 percent success rate of the maneuver for restoring breathing to drowning people.

All people who have stopped breathing, for even a few moments, need professional medical attention as soon as possible.

In the meantime: Make the person comfortable, lying down, warm and reassured, and then head for a hospital or other medical facility.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.