An emergency action to relieve choking. Introduced by the physician Henry J. Heimlich, M.D., in 1974, the Heimlich maneuver uses subdiaphragmatic pressure a quick, upward thrust just below the diaphragm to dislodge objects that are blocking the trachea (windpipe) or throat. Because choking is a significant risk for people with Parkinson’s, especially in the middle to later stages of the disease, all caregivers and family members should learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. This is taught in most basic first-aid classes and as part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The basic steps of the Heimlich maneuver are as follows:
• From behind, wrap your arms around the person.
• Hold your fists together just below the person’s ribs and give a quick upward thrust (do not squeeze).
• Repeat until the object dislodges.
A person who is choking may cough or gasp or may make no sound at all. The hallmark test for whether a person is truly choking or is, as he or she may attempt to convey, beyond the crisis, is to ask the person to speak. If the person cannot speak, he or she is still choking and needs immediate help. Choking happens most often during eating, usually because the person swallows a piece of food that is too large to go down the throat. For people who have problems swallowing, which occur in Parkinson’s disease, even small or liquified foods can become lodged in the throat. Immediate action is imperative. Small food particles and liquids sometimes pass down the trachea and into the lungs, where they can cause infection that leads to pneumonia. Family members and caregivers should keep a close watch on the person for several days after a choking episode to observe early signs of infection such as fever. If there is any concern that food remains lodged in the throat, a doctor should check the person.