Whether you are performing CPR with rescue breathing or just hands-only, both are equally effective in saving a life. However, those who are medically trained may perform life saving measures with rescue breaths, especially in certain circumstances.
What Is Rescue Breathing
Rescue breathing is manually forcing air into a victim’s lungs when his/her body is not able to breathe on its own. The goal of rescue breathing is to do the work of the victim’s lungs to inhale and exhale. Rescue breathing is often paired with CPR, but CPR can successfully be done without rescue breathing.
It is important to note: even if it looks like the person’s chest or shoulders are moving in an attempt to breathe, if little to no air is actually moving through their body, they are in respiratory arrest and need CPR!
Some emergency situations that require CPR are:
- Drug overdose
- Unresponsive infants/children
- Unconscious adult who is not breathing
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Severe asthma attack
- Cardiac Arrest
- Traumatic Injuries
Rescue Breathing Rate
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends about one breath every 5 seconds and should only take 1 second to give.
Adult: 1 breath every 5 to 6 seconds; 10 to 12 breaths per minute
Infant or Child: 1 breath every 3 to 5 seconds; 12 to 20 breaths per minute
It is important to focus on quality of the breath over quantity. When performing rescue breaths, watch the victim’s chest and make sure it is rising with each breath! They don’t need “too much or too little” but just enough to see the chest rise and fall.
This video shows how to make sure you are giving good breaths.
Rescue Breathing Steps
Before compressions or rescue breaths are given, the following steps should be completed:
- Make sure the area is safe for you and the victim.
- See if the victim is responsive by tapping them on the shoulder and shouting “Are you ok?”
- If the victim is not responding normally, request help from those nearby and CALL 911 before you do anything else
- Check for a pulse and and breathing simultaneously for no more than 10 seconds.
- Get an AED and emergency equipment if available.
Now you are ready to begin chest compressions with rescue breathing.
- Open the airway by tipping the victim’s head back
2. Check again for breathing
3. For children and adults, pinch the victim’s nose and seal your lips over their mouth. If using a pocket mask or disposable face shield, follow manufacturer instructions. For infants (up to age 1), cover the victim’s nose and mouth with your mouth or protective barrier.
4. Begin two (2) rescue breaths watching to make sure the victim’s chest rises with each breath.
5. Continue with a rotation of 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths until the victim starts breathing on their own or emergency personnel arrive
Emergency personelle and medical professionals trained in CPR use rescue breathing during a cardiac arrest in addition to chest compressions. Bystanders are not expected to perform rescue breaths while performing CPR. Bystanders can successful perform CPR by only doing chest compressions, which is also know as hands-only CPR.
What Is Hands Only CPR
When someone’s heart stops beating, it only takes 3 to 4 minutes for their brain to stop functioning due to a lack of oxygen. This is also known as brain death. If blood is circulating, there is enough oxygen stored in theblood to keep vital organs alive for many minutes, even if the victim is not breathing.
That is the key! It is important keep the blood moving, to keep the brain and necessary organs alive. Keeping a victim’s blood pumping is the essence of hands-only CPR.
Chest compressions, with or without rescue breaths, keeps blood moving and keeps a victim alive until trained professionals arrive.
Hands-only CPR is also know as “bystander CPR” and is very simple to do.
Check out this video from the American Heart Association to learn how easy it is!
American Heart Association Guideline Updates
Every 5 years, the American Heart Association (AHA) releases new guidelines for CPR, BLS, ACLS, and PALS. The most recent update in 2015 took into account how changing technologies and communication measures impact standards of intervention during a life-threatening events.
The AHA also changed its standards in 2015 to focus on compression only, or hands only CPR, for lay rescuers. Since that change, many lives have been saved due to increased willingness of bystanders to act since they were no longer required to give mouth to mouth breaths.
Mouth to mouth breaths were seemingly one of the largest fears potential rescuers faced when trying to help save somebody’s life. The fear of contracting an incurable illness caused hesitation, which wastes precious time.
The fear of contracting illness from the victim during rescue breaths should not stop you. The pre-hospital transmission of incurable diseases is estimated to be 1:17,000,000, which is incredible rare. This should ease most major concerns.
When Rescue Breathing Is Important
While hands only CPR is effective, especially in the adult population, the proven benefit of rescue breaths cannot be overlooked. Here are some scenarios that are important to consider:
During cardiac arrest, not only does the victim’s heart stop but so does their respiratory drive. After about 13 minutes, all the usable oxygen in their blood is consumed and the person will become hypoxemic.
Hypoxia is when there is not enough oxygen in the body to sustain normal life functions. Hypoxemia is when there is a low arterial oxygen supply. Some publications use these terms interchangeably.
Once hypoxemia occurs, cellular death and acidosis begins, lowering a victim’s chance of survival. Rescue breaths prevent this by exchanging carbon dioxide and oxygen like normal respiration.
The leading causes of death in America today is opioid overdose. Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids in the United States. Rescue breathing has a large impact on the outcome of opioid overdose.
When someone has too much of an opioid in the blood, their respiratory drive significantly decreases. As their respiratory drive decreases, the victim stops breathing. If rescue breaths are not given, death from hypoxia will eventually occur.
Narcan (naloxone) is commonly the focus when treating an opioid overdose. However, rescue breathing gets the oxygen they so desperately need into the blood and can drastically improve outcomes.
CPR Saves Lives
It begins with those who are ready and prepared to step up when an emergency arises. Be prepared to save a life by becoming CPR and first aid certified!