Rescue Breathing: Techniques and Importance in CPR

Last updated:
May 30, 2023

While cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is widely recognized as a critical technique, there is another essential component that often goes hand in hand with chest compressions: rescue breathing. Rescue breathing plays a vital role in restoring breath and oxygenation to individuals experiencing respiratory distress or cardiac arrest. In this article, we will delve into the significance of rescue breathing in emergency situations, its importance in maintaining oxygenation, and the step-by-step process of performing this life-saving technique. 


What is Rescue Breathing?

Rescue breathing, also known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, is a first aid technique used to restore breathing in a person who has stopped breathing or is experiencing breathing difficulties. It involves blowing air into the person's lungs through their mouth, and can be a life-saving intervention in emergency situations such as drowning, suffocation, or cardiac arrest. Rescue breathing is commonly performed in conjunction with chest compressions as part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The goal of rescue breathing is to restore adequate oxygenation to the body and maintain vital functions until professional medical assistance arrives. By supplying oxygen-rich air to the lungs, rescue breathing helps sustain the person's life and supports their chances of survival in critical situations.


How Does Rescue Breathing Differ From CPR?

Rescue breathing and CPR are life-saving techniques used in emergency situations. Rescue breathing focuses on restoring breathing by delivering breaths directly into the person's lungs, while CPR combines rescue breathing with chest compressions to address both breathing and circulation during cardiac arrest. Rescue breaths can be given alone or as a part of CPR, depending on the specific situation.


When and In What Types Of Emergencies Is Rescue Breathing Used?

Rescue breathing is used in emergency situations where a person is experiencing breathing difficulties or has stopped breathing altogether. It is commonly employed in cases such as drowning, near-drowning incidents, respiratory arrest, or when someone is unconscious and not breathing. Rescue breathing aims to provide oxygen to the person's lungs, ensuring their vital organs receive the necessary oxygen supply. It is an essential technique to support and sustain life until advanced medical help arrives.

How To Perform Rescue Breathing

The steps involved in performing rescue breathing are simple and straightforward, but they must be followed carefully in order to ensure the best possible outcome.


1. Check if the area is safe

Before initiating rescue breathing, it is crucial to ensure the safety of the area. Assess for any potential hazards or dangers that may put you or the person in further harm.


2. Check for responsiveness

Gently tap the person's shoulder and ask loudly, "Are you okay?" Observe for any response or signs of movement. If there is no response, proceed to the next steps.


How to check for normal breathing and determine the need for rescue breaths?

Look for the rise and fall of the person's chest. Listen for sounds of breathing. Feel for the person's breath on your cheek. These are indicators of normal breathing. If the person is not breathing or is only gasping for air, rescue breaths are needed.


3. Call 911

In an emergency situation, it is crucial to call for professional medical help immediately. Dial the emergency number in your region and provide accurate information about the situation.


4. Open the Airway

Tilt the person's head back gently by placing one hand on their forehead and lifting the chin with your other hand. This maneuver helps to open the airway and ensure a clear passage for air to enter and exit the lungs.


5. Give Rescue Breaths

Pinch the person's nose shut with your fingers. Take a normal breath, place your mouth firmly over theirs, and create a seal. Give two slow breaths, each lasting about one second, allowing the person's chest to rise with each breath. Ensure that the chest falls completely between breaths.


Till what point should rescue breathing be administered on an unconscious person?

Continue rescue breathing until the person starts breathing on their own, professional medical help arrives, or you are physically unable to continue. It is essential to maintain a consistent supply of oxygen until advanced medical care can be provided.


Are The Steps Different For a Child or Infant?

The technique for performing rescue breaths may vary based on the age and size of the child:

Infants and small children: When giving rescue breaths to infants and small children, it is important to form a seal around both the mouth and nose. This can be done by placing your mouth over the infant's or child's mouth and nose, ensuring a tight seal. If it is difficult to form a good seal using this technique, an alternative is to use the mouth-to-nose or mouth-to-mouth technique.

Older children: For older children, the mouth-to-mouth technique is generally used. This involves placing your mouth over the child's mouth and exhaling to deliver the rescue breath.


What Is The Recommended Ventilation Rate For Rescue Breathing?

The recommended ventilation rate for rescue breathing varies depending on the age group:

  • Infants: For infants up to 1 year old, the recommended ventilation rate is 12 to 20 breaths per minute. This means delivering approximately 1 breath every 3 to 5 seconds. It's crucial to provide gentle and small breaths to prevent over-inflation of the infant's lungs.
  • Children: For children aged 1 to 8 years old, the ventilation rate remains the same as for infants—12 to 20 breaths per minute. The focus should be on delivering effective breaths while considering the size and lung capacity of the child.
  • Adults: In adult rescue breathing, the recommended ventilation rate is slightly lower at 10 to 12 breaths per minute. This equates to about 1 breath every 5 to 6 seconds. It's important to provide full, effective breaths to ensure proper oxygenation.

It's essential to adjust the ventilation rate based on the specific emergency circumstances and the individual's response. For example, if the person is not responding or their breathing remains absent, the recommended ventilation rates should be followed. However, if the person shows signs of spontaneous breathing, the rescuer should provide rescue breaths based on the person's breathing rate, aiming to provide enough ventilation to support oxygenation.


Between Rescue Breathing and Hands Only CPR, Which is recommended for untrained Bystanders?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends hands-only CPR for untrained bystanders because it is easier to learn, remember, and perform effectively in an emergency situation. It eliminates the need for rescue breaths, which some individuals may be hesitant to perform due to concerns about disease transmission or lack of training.

However, it's important to note that for infants and children, rescue breathing should still be performed along with chest compressions. In such cases, receiving formal CPR training that covers rescue breathing and hands-on techniques is highly recommended.

Related Article
What Is Hands Only CPR and How To Use It

Without Proper Training, Is It Safe To Perform Rescue Breathing?

Performing rescue breathing without proper training is generally not recommended due to the potential risks. It is important to have the proper knowledge and technique to deliver breaths effectively and avoid complications. Seeking immediate medical assistance and following instructions from emergency services is crucial in situations requiring rescue breathing. It is highly encouraged for individuals to receive CPR and first aid training to learn the correct techniques and be prepared to respond effectively in emergencies. Training courses provide the necessary skills and knowledge to ensure the safety and well-being of those in need.

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