The “finger sweep” is a technique that can be used if you can see the object causing the choking (in adults and children). If the person in trouble is not someone in your family, don protective gloves. Open the mouth and if you can see the object, literally sweep your fingers in the throat area, using feather-like, gentle movements to “rake” up the object and remove it. But never reach blindly into a choking victim's mouth. You can force the object down further!
Infants can't tell you they can't breathe. But if they are coughing and crying, it's a good indication that they are not choking. Let them try to work the object out themselves, but be on guard.
If a baby's cough or cry is faint or nonexistent, first aid must be given. The Heimlich Maneuver is slightly different for infants under 18 months in trouble:
- Before performing the Heimlich Maneuver, open the baby's mouth. If you can see the object that is causing the choking and you can reach it, perform the “finger sweep” to clean the mouth instead.
- Place the baby face down on your forearm, your hand supporting the head (as shown in the first drawing below).
- Give the same four “hits” with the heel of your hand, but more gently, of course!
- Turn the baby so he or she is facing you. Use both forearms and hold the head in the cup of your hand (see the third drawing).
- Using only your fingertips, press down on the baby's chest four times (as shown in the fourth drawing).
- Repeat the procedure until help comes.
Pregnant women and obese persons also need special care. The blows to the back remain the same, using the heel of the hand. However, when you put your arms around them for the forward thrusts, you must adapt to the excess weight. Instead of pressing your hands between the waist and ribs in the second part of the Maneuver, push your hands against the breastbone.