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A person who has stopped breathing is not necessarily dead, but is in critical danger. Life is dependent upon oxygen which is breathed into the lungs and then carried by blood to every body cell. Since body cells cannot store oxygen, and since the blood can hold only a limited amount, death will surely result from continued lack of breathing (oxygen must be provided in three to six minutes or damage to the brain cells or death will result). The heart may continue to beat for a time after breathing has stopped and the blood may still be circulated to the body cells. Thus, for a few minutes there is a chance to save a life, by the means of artificial respiration.
Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is the approved method for this.
People may stop breathing because of electrical shock, drowning, suffocation, poisoning, physical blow to the head, chest or abdomen, or any number of other causes. If you suspect an individual is not breathing act immediately because time is life. Waste no time, check to see if the victim is breathing. If he appears to be unconscious tap him firmly on the shoulder and ask in a loud voice, "Are you all right ?" If you get no response then immediately do the following:
- Tilt the head back so that the chin is pointing upward ( this is the most important action you can take to enable a person to breathe again, and may alone help the victim to start breathing).
- Pinch nose closed.
- Take a big breath and blow into the mouth, providing one breath every five seconds for adults, every three seconds for small children.
- Watch for the chest to expand, and listen for air to come out.
- Repeat until the victim begins to breathe on his own. The victim's chest should rise with each breath. If the air goes to his stomach ( as seen by the stomach rising instead of the chest ) turn the victim onto his side and press on his abdomen to push the air out.
Turning the victim to the side should prevent the inhalation of any regurgitated matter into the lungs. If the victim regurgitates, quickly clean the matter out of the victim's mouth with your finger and continue giving him artificial respiration. A drowning victim will almost always vomit as air replaces water in the lungs. If the victim is a baby or young child, place your mouth over the nose and mouth rather than pinching the nostrils. Use puffs of air on and infant or young child rather than large breaths because their lung capacity is not as great as yours.
Artificial respiration may be given mouth-to-nose if the victim's mouth is severely injured. Also, if artificial respiration is necessary for a person with a stoma (an opening in the neck to facilitate breathing) just blow into the stoma. If the stoma is open to the mouth and nose, as some are, it may be necessary to close off the nose and mouth with a free hand while using the stoma for respiration. Do not stop giving artificial respiration until the victim can breathe for himself or until he is pronounced dead by a physician.
Check the victim's carotid pulse to see if his heart is beating by placing your index and middle fingers at the side of the Adam's apple (larynx) between the muscles of the neck and the trachea. If no pulse is detectable, begin CPR immediately. If pulse is present, continue artificial respiration but check the carotid pulse periodically to insure that his heart continues to beat.
If you have never received training in proper administration of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation you should consider enrolling in a class taught by the American Red Cross or other qualified institution.
- Blocked air passages
- Insufficient oxygen in the air
- Inability of the blood to carry oxygen
- Paralysis of the breathing center in the brain
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