The Ache: Nearly 5,000 people a year die from choking in the U.S., according to the nonprofit National Safety Council.
The Claim: Two new easy-to-use devices work like plungers to suck out obstructions in the airway, providing another option if standard treatment—such as abdominal thrusts developed in 1974 by Henry Heimlich—fail to clear the airway, say the companies who sell them.
The Verdict: A recently published laboratory study showed the LifeVac, from LifeVac LLC of Springfield Gardens, N.Y., dislodged simulated obstructions. So far there haven’t been any scientific publications detailing lives saved with the LifeVac or another device, from Dechoker LLC, of Salisbury, N.C.
Both the Dechoker, $89.95, and the LifeVac, $69.95, have a plastic mask that provides a seal over the mouth and nose while suction is provided. The Dechoker looks like a large syringe, while the LifeVac’s plunger is shaped like a small accordion. In both devices, one-way valves allow air to only travel out of the mask and not into it, which avoids pushing the object deeper in, says LifeVac Chief Executive Arthur Lih.