It can happen in an instant. One minute, there's friendly conversation around the table. The next minute, someone's choking.
Roughly 5,000 people die from choking each year, according to the National Safety Council.
Josh Moeckly, a Mayo Clinic cardiac nurse, explains why staying calm is the most important part of helping a choking person.
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Moeckly says the first thing you want to do when you notice someone choking is to tell them calmly that you're going to help them. He says that your calm voice can reassure the choking person.
"So you want to place the thumb side of your fist against the ... person's abdomen," Moeckly says. "And then you want to apply the other hand on top of that. And then sharply apply pressure to [force] the air."
It's called the Heimlich maneuver.
Moeckly says to repeat the process until you see the object the person is choking on come out of his or her mouth.
If the person loses consciousness before the object comes out, make sure someone calls 911 for help while you continue to work to clear the person's airway.