Oxygen's Role When Used With First Aid and CPR

Oxygen is a vital gas found in our atmosphere. It is what we need to be able to perform physiological processes and to live. The air around us has approximately 21% oxygen, which is plenty for normal use. When oxygen deprivation occurs, the body's tissues die (hypoxia).

During rescue breathing, after the rescuer exhales, the air still has about 15% oxygen. This is still high enough of a concentration to be of assistance to the casualty. But if we can give additional oxygen through artificial means, the casualty will benefit.

Oxygen can be given to someone who is breathing on their own, and to someone who is not breathing at all. The difference is if the casualty is not breathing on their own then the rescuer will need to perform rescue breathing, either manually or with a bag-valve-mask.

Supplemental Oxygen

To deliver supplemental oxygen to a person in need, you'll need the following:

  • An oxygen cylinder.
  • A pressure regulator to reduce the pressure of the oxygen inside the tank (2000 psi) to a safe level of 70 psi.
  • A flow meter to control the amount of oxygen administered in litres per minute (1 to 15 pm)
  • A delivery device such as a nasal cannula, non-breather mask, resuscitation mask, or a bag-valve-mask.

Oxygen Delivery Devices

  • Nasal Cannula: Small tubes inserted into the nose. Can only be used for breathing casualties. Flow rate of about 1-4 lpm. Can deliver about 24-36% oxygen.
  • Resuscitation Mask: Covers the mouth and nose. Can be used for breathing and non-breathing casualties. Flow rate of about 6+ lpm. Oxygen concentration of about 35-55%.
  • Bag-Valve-Mask: Covers the mouth and nose, but needs to be held in place. Can be used for breathing and non-breathing casualties. Flow rate of about 10+ lpm. Oxygen concentration of 90+%.
  • Non-Breathing Mask: Covers the mouth and nose. Can only be used for breathing. Flow rate of about 10+ lpm. Oxygen concentration of 90+%.


Oxygen is a gas and it is under high pressure in the tank. Always take great care when storing and using. If damage occurs to the tank, get it replaced. Check it regularly for damage and to assure that it is not empty. Although there is no official warning, some experts suggest that if a defibrillator is being used, then oxygen should be removed from the area to reduce the chance of combustion.

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