Rescue Breathing: A Core Skill for First Aiders

Rescue breathing, sometimes called artificial resuscitation, is a way of breathing air into someone to give the person the oxygen needed to survive. This technique should be used on casualties that are not breathing, but still have signs of circulation.

Regardless of the cause for someone to stop breathing, the procedure is the same. First, open the airway by tilting the head back and lifting the chin upwards. Once you determine that the person is not breathing, pinch their nose to prevent air from escaping and blow into their mouth. If you do it correctly you will see their chest expand.

Blow only enough air to see their chest rise. If you blow too much, excess air may go into their stomach (gastric distension) which can cause vomiting. If they do vomit, quickly turn them on their side, let them finish vomiting, make sure there is nothing left in their mouth, and then repeat the process.

When you have successfully delivered two breaths, check for signs of circulation. If you detect signs of circulation, but no breathing, continue the providing air to the casualty with one breath every 5 seconds (for adults). A good way to time the breaths is to count, “one one-thousand, two one-thousand… ” Each breath should last for about 2 seconds. After a minute passes (12 breaths) once again check for signs of circulation.

Do not stop rescue breathing unless you are in danger, the casualty begins breathing, there are no signs of circulation (in which case begin CPR), or another trained rescuer arrives and takes over.

Notes About Rescue Breathing

  • If the person has injuries to the mouth, the same procedure can be done by blowing into their nostrils.
  • Dentures should be left in, unless they are causing a problem. Then you can remove them.
  • If you suspect the person has neck injuries, you should instead use the jaw thrust technique to keep the amount of head movement to a minimum.
  • Whenever possible use a rescue breathing barrier, to reduce the chance of disease transmission.
  • Rescue breathing may be done by itself or in combination with CPR.
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