Food & Drink

What the Hell to Do If Someone Starts Choking in a Restaurant

Heimlech manuever
Anthony Humphreys/Thrillist

Sometimes, things go down the wrong pipe. And when that happens, people start choking. It can be a pretty scary experience for everyone involved, but it doesn't have to be if you know the Heimlich manuever. We compiled a quick guide to properly dislodging all sorts of weird food from strangers' guts with some help from The Mayo Clinic below. Educate yourself, and one day you could become a restaurant hero.

Alright, so first off, you should get someone to alert medical authorities in case the situation gets dire. And before you even get to all the Heimliching, make sure you let the person choking know what you're about to do. They're already pretty freaked out by what's happening, and liable to get even more anxious if a stranger starts charging for their belly with no warning.

This is sort of a disputed area, but you may want to consider back blows. While they're optional -- the American Heart Association doesn't teach them, but the Red Cross does -- they could come in handy. Simply deliver five blows with the heel of your hand between the person's shoulder blades. 

Then it's time to Heimlich. You'll obviously need to stand behind the person who's choking and wrap your arms around their waist. (Also, try to tip them forward slightly.) Make a fist with your hand and place it slightly above their belly button. Grasp the fist with your other hand and press firmly into their stomach with a quick, upward thrust -- almost like you're trying to lift them up. If the first go doesn't do the trick, try a set of five. And if that still doesn't work, repeat.

If the person goes unconscious, you'll need to give them CPR until the EMTs arrive. But hopefully it won't come to that! Here's a handy video made by Howcast in case you're more of a visual learner:

And there you have it. Choking safety course over, class dismissed.

Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist. She used to be trained in CPR, but desperately needs a refresher course. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.