Breathing Emergencies & How to Help

Breathing Emergencies & How to Help

Breathing Emergencies or Respiratory Distress as known by many health care providers refers to a person who can’t breath properly, is having difficulty breathing or has stopped breathing “Respiratory Arrest“. Each of these breathing emergencies pose a potential threat to a persons life as once oxygen has been cut off from the brain, brain cells begin to deteriorate. On average brain cells will begin to degrade within 4-6 minutes, in essence “Don’t Waist Time” with Breathing Emergencies.

Common Causes of Breathing Difficulty:

  • -Hyperventilation
  • -Asthma
  • -Allergic Reactions or even Anaphylaxis
  • -Chest Injuries
  • -Anxiety or Distress

Some common causes of Hyperventilation the upset of oxygen and carbon dioxide within the body are : Excitement, fear or anxiety, Asthma, Head / Brain injuries, exercise, severe bleeding, injury / intense pain, medical conditions & illness

What to watch for:

  • – Rapid shallow breaths
  • – A suffocating feeling like they are not getting enough air
  • – Fear or anxiety & confusion
  • – Numbness, dizziness tingling in the fingers or toes

How to Help:

  1. 1) Make sure the area is safe for you to help the victim “Protect Yourself!!!” If safe to do so check the victim.
  2. 2) “Call 911!!!” or have someone like a bystander assist and Call 911 for you if there are injuries or potential underlying medical conditions while you provide care.
  3. 3) “Don’t Waste Time!!!” Help the victim to relax in a position of comfort and breathe slowly, assist with medications if they have their own for this specific reason. Treat the cause of the breathing emergency if it is known, often hyperventilation can be slowed or stopped by simply offering comfort, warmth and reassurance.
  4. 4) Double check and perform a secondary survey while waiting for medical aid and treat any non life threatening conditions.
  • *) If you are Alone and the victim becomes unconscious or the hyperventilation does not stop Call 911 yourself, get an AED if possible and then return to provide care while awaiting medical aid.

Preventing Breathing Emergencies:

Some people tend to hyperventilate with anxiety, panic disorders, stress or fatigue due to exertion. To help with these try to practice breathing exercise or relaxation techniques to help slow your breathing rate as well as relax your mind. Remember once a person has breathing trouble panic is a natural response which will increase their breathing rate. Victims with Asthma can usually breath “ IN ” but have trouble breathing “ OUT “.

We never know what can happen, its always good to be prepared and have the knowledge we need to help those who need it.

This material is for information purposes only and is taken from The Canadian Red Cross / Alberta Heart & Stroke Foundation & Alberta Health Services. This information should not be used in place of medical, Technical advice, instructor, and/or treatment. If you have questions, speak to your local Physician or Safety Training Facility.

Just Remember:

  • Protect Yourself!!! Call 911!!! Don’t Waste Time!!!

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