At what age (or what size) is safe to implement the Heimlich maneuver on a child if they are choking?

I'm worried if I were to see a child choking, and I applied the Heimlich maneuver, that I might crack/break their ribs, sternum, when I press into their abdomen above their navel. And I suppose that's better than letting the child choke to death, but is their an age/size that doctors generally agree upon is safe?

Or is there an alternative maneuver to use for a smaller/younger child?

  • 1
    From what I understand, cracked ribs are expected for even adults from this procedure - It's violent with lots of pressure going to the bottom ribs. If there was a better method to use, I suspect it would be advised for adults too.
    – UKMonkey
    Nov 2, 2016 at 17:18

1 Answer 1


If someone is truly in need of the Heimlich manoeuvre, that means they are dying and cracked ribs are not a consideration in this case. The same goes for cracked ribs after CPR.

However... the Heimlich manoeuvre as such is far more than is required to dislodge a foreign body in a small child, so it's not used. Instead, you give back blows and chest thrusts, depending on the age and size of the child. (The same consideration applies to CPR, where you use a modified technique for chest compressions).

And here are the entire pediatric resuscitation guidelines: http://ercguidelines.elsevierresource.com/european-resuscitation-council-guidelines-resuscitation-2015-section-6-paediatric-life-support/fulltext

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.