Rescue breaths, also known as assisted ventilation, is the act of assisting the mechanical function of the lungs and providing oxygen. Without oxygen, the human brain may be permanently damaged, and the victim may even die. Every minute without oxygen results in 10% of a person’s brain cells being damaged.
4 Ways to give rescue breaths
You don’t need to be a certified medic or doctor to give rescue breaths, but being trained by a certified medical training professional could possibly save someone’s life. There are 4 different methods of delivering rescue breaths depending on what resources you have available and your level of training.
Mouth-to-mouth is the practice of placing your mouth directly over the patient’s mouth, pinching their nose shut, and delivering a breath. This method can be performed by anyone, but for the highest chance of success, seek out a certified AHA training center with proper basic CPR training. Due to the risk of communicable diseases, it is not recommended to perform this on anyone except family or friends.
Mouth-to-mask is a method by using a barrier device generally referred to as a “pocket mask” that goes over the patient’s mouth and nose. The rescuer then blows through a one-way valve. These masks often can be found with AEDs, in first aid kits, are may be carried by individuals on their person.
A bag-mask is also called a bag-valve-mask (BVM) is an important intervention in PALS and should be taught by a certified PALS instructor. This device is meant to be used by healthcare providers. It is considered a 2-rescuer skill, and it requires practice and proper bag-mask ventilation training to be proficient in using the device. Oxygen is attached to the bag-mask device, one hand holds the mask to the patient’s face, while the other hand squeezes the bag pushing oxygen into the patient’s lungs.
Advanced airways come in several forms. The most popular on the market are Endotracheal Tubes, King airways, and Laryngeal Mask Airways (LMAs). These are advanced devices that can only be used by healthcare providers trained by authorized medical training centers. These tubes are inserted into the mouth, have balloons that are inflated to isolate the airway, and then attach to a bag valve mask to deliver breaths.
Today we will cover the exact steps of providing mouth-to-mask rescue breaths using a pocket mask. With basic medical training and practice, you should be able to successfully give rescue breaths to help or even save a person’s life. If you’d like to learn more about the medical training classes we offer, please contact us today and we’ll help find a class that best aligns with the first aid training course you’d like to take. Here are the steps to properly give rescue breaths:
- Call emergency services. If you find someone in need of help, contact emergency services right away. Provide the dispatcher with your exact location and situation. Be sure to describe your location as accurately as you can. Do not rely on rescue breathing alone to save someone’s life. Always contact emergency services before starting any medical procedure.
- Secure the area and ensure there are no hazards nearby. You won’t be able to effectively help someone in need if you get hurt. So, it’s critical to ensure that the area you’re in is safe. Look for electrical wires, chemical spills, gas fumes, fires, and other potential dangers. If there is anything to be concerned about nearby, get rid of the hazard as quickly as you can if possible, or, relocate the patient to a secure area. If there are other bystanders with you, have them help. If you’re alone, continue calling for help until someone hears you.
- Lay the patient flat on their back. You must only perform rescue breaths when the patient is lying completely flat on their back with their arms to their sides. The patient should look like any other person sleeping on a bed.
- Put on a pocket mask. This protects you from getting in contact with vomit secretions, infectious fluids, and other communicable diseases.
- Tilt the patient’s forehead back and lift their chin. With both hands on the mask, use a few fingers to tilt the patient’s forehead back and use the fingers of your other hand to lift their chin up. This opens the patient’s airway to allow oxygen to flow more easily into the lungs. If you don’t tilt the head back, the air blown into the patient’s mouth will go into their stomach and can lead to the patient vomiting.
- Blow through the one-way valve. While keeping the patient’s head tilted back, blow through the one-way valve for one second. You should see the patient’s chest rise. If you see the patient’s stomach rise when performing a rescue breath, ensure that their head is properly tilted backwards and that you are not blowing too much air into their lungs.
Rescue breaths on children and infants
For all patients, you need to make sure you aren’t blowing too much air into their lungs, even if they’re adults. You need to give enough air so that the chest rises. If the patient is a child, you’ll want to give rescue breaths with less force. Children’s airways are much more fragile than adults, so you need to be careful. The same goes for tilting their head back. Don’t tilt it too far back as you may actually block their airway as opposed to opening it.
For infants, if you are giving mouth-to-mouth, you must be extremely careful when giving rescue breaths. Instead of just covering their mouth, you’ll want to cover both their mouth and nose and then blow gently. Position the infant in the “Sniffer’s Position.” This is where you tilt the infant’s head back until the infant looks like they’re sniffing the air.
What happens in the body?
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell when someone needs rescue breaths. You won’t know the exact problem unless you have some CPR training or knowledge unless of course, you witnessed the incident right in front of you. Rescue breaths give the patient oxygen directly to their lungs which can help sustain their life. Rescue breaths are part of the CPR procedure to allow oxygenated blood to flow to the patient’s brain. Without the flow of oxygen to the brain, it can be permanently damaged in under 10 minutes. In short, you are providing a supply of oxygen into someone’s body when their body can’t efficiently supply oxygen itself.
Normally, our chests expand as we breathe. This is due to the diaphragm being pushed down and contracting the muscles around our rib cage. As a result, breathing creates negative pressure inside our bodies which allows air to flow in and fill our lungs. It moves oxygen into our bloodstream and encourages the flow of blood, and this keeps us alive.
When you give rescue breaths, you are actually inhibiting the flow of blood to the heart, and that’s why you should only give rescue breaths only to those who have a heartbeat but are not breathing properly. If the patient does not have a heartbeat, you will need to perform CPR.
Dangers of performing rescue breaths incorrectly
There are many dangers of performing rescue breaths incorrectly, so always be careful and proceed with caution. Whatever you do, do not panic. Here are some dangers to look out for:
- Overtilting of the head. Although it’s critical, and part of basic CPR training, to tilt a patient’s head back and to lift their chin up, you need to be careful to not over tilt the head. This may cause the patient’s airways to be obstructed, preventing air from entering the body. You must also remember to tilt the head back and to lift the chin in the first place.
- Blowing too hard into the patient’s mouth. When you’re giving a patient rescue breaths, you need to ensure that you are not blowing too hard into their mouth. Blowing too much air may overfill the patient’s body, causing it to travel to the stomach. When there’s an excessive amount of air in someone’s stomach, it may cause them to vomit. This may lead to choking and other complications. So, try to only blow enough air into a patient’s body so that their chest rises. As a rule of thumb, you should only blow for about a second.
- Failing to completely cover the patient’s mouth with yours. Most people are not comfortable covering someone else’s mouth with theirs, and this may cause them to not completely cover the patient’s mouth. Failing to do so will not allow air to effectively travel to the patient’s lungs. If you decide to give someone rescue breaths to help save their life, you need to do so with full intent and focus.
- Not calling for help. It’s important to note that rescue breathing alone may not save someone’s life. It’s simply a medical practice that may save someone’s life, but in most cases, it will only prolong their life until medical help arrives. Therefore, you should always call for help before giving rescue breaths. Quickly dial 9-1-1, leave the phone on speaker, and then give rescue breaths. Ideally, you should have someone else call emergency services for you.
- Poor timing. For those who are untrained, having to give someone rescue breaths can be frightening, especially if it’s your first time. Your fear may cause you to have poor timing when giving rescue breaths. Do your best to calm yourself and to focus. Don’t rush the procedure as it won’t be effective.
- Giving too many rescue breaths. You should only give a patient two rescue breath attempts before starting chest compressions for a patient in need of CPR. If after each attempt you do not see the patient’s chest rise, quickly check for problems – the patient’s airway may be blocked. After the two attempts, you should resume chest compressions and then try again. You should not attempt to give more than two rescue breaths per cycle of CPR as long pauses may cause even more damage to the patient.
- Only giving rescue breaths to a patient in cardiac arrest. When someone is in cardiac arrest, it means that their heart has stopped beating. Rescue breathing alone is not enough to keep someone alive. You will need to perform the complete cycle of CPR. To check if someone is breathing, you’ll need to look for a pulse.
- Failing to pinch the patient’s nose closed. When performing rescue breaths, you need to ensure you are pinching the patient’s nose closed. Failing to do so may allow air to escape through the patient’s nose, and this may cause rescue breaths to be less effective.