The best First Aid series: respiratory distress

respiratory distress
respiratory distress

First Aid Meaning

First aid is temporary and immediate care that is provided to a suddenly sick or injured person in the absence of a healthcare professional. when we talk about emergency CPR ( cardiopulmonary resuscitation) usually is the first thought that jumps into our minds, but emergencies vary and they don’t always require us to perform CPR, in this series we will be covering most of the common emergencies that you will mostly face in your daily life and how to react properly to them.

Remember you are under no obligation to assist if you don’t have enough knowledge or you do not need to but if you decided to help there are basic principles you should follow.

  • Activate EMS

Activate EMS, always activate EMS first unless the victim is an unconscious infant or child. In this case, you provide rescue support first then call 911 or your country’s emergency service number.

Try to give your exact location to the responder, your full details including a phone number that they can reach you with, any information you know about the victim is crucial, try not to miss anything no matter how small you think it’s and describe the nature of the injury or illness so they can send the appropriate personnel and equipment.



LOOK AROUND, observe the scene as you approach, make sure that you don’t put yourself or the others in any kind of danger, for example, don’t walk right into a burning or falling building, abandoned places, or into a crossfire zone.

Once you have started the rescue support Remember you have to complete it until the ambulance arrives or you are physically exhausted and you can’t proceed any further.

Some procedures need training, make sure that you have the proper training before you start, and remember the victim or his legal guardian has the right to refuse the care you want to provide.

* Implied consent. If a victim is unconscious, the law assumes he or she would consent to care if conscious.

Be careful of infectious diseases and agitated and altered mental status of the victims.

now that the basic rules have been stated, let’s start the first episode of this series with:

respiratory distress

The most common type of respiratory emergency is respiratory distress, which can be caused by anaphylactic shock, injuries, asthma, and hyperventilation.

The victim will have  difficulty in  breathing, and here are some of the symptoms that may be noticed:

  1. Abnormal breathing patterns.
  2. Unusual breathing noises, such as wheezing, snoring, crowing, or gurgling.
  3. Dizziness.
  4. Pain in the chest.
  5. Tingling in the hands and/or feet
  6. Abnormal skin color—paleness, flushed skin (redness), or cyanosis.

While respiratory arrest is a complete cessation of breathing which is considered a true medical emergency.

Here are the most common causes of respiratory arrest:

  1. Electric shock
  2. Drowning and suffocation.
  3. Toxic gas inhalation.
  4. Head and chest injuries.
  5. Heart problems and strokes.
  6. Drug overdose and allergic reactions.

Remember once the victim stops breathing you have 4 minutes until permanent brain damage starts to happen so how to act:

You already approached the victim and you are sure you’re in no danger, assess the victim carefully, check his consciousness by shaking his shoulders gently and shout loudly “are you okay?” and observe if the victim responds.

If the victim is unresponsive then activate the EMS system and if possible put the victim in a supine position on a firm flat surface unless you suspect a spine injury, then don’t try to move the victim you might end up with worse outcomes, now try to open the airway, the best way to do so is by Head-tilt / chin-lift maneuver.

Head-tilt / chin-lift maneuver
Head-tilt / chin-lift maneuver

Check if there is any foreign object blocking the airway if you can reach it, use your index finger and gently try to move it out.

How to perform HEAD-TILT / CHIN-LIFT  maneuver

place two fingers of one hand under the victim’s lower jaw on the bone near the chin, not the soft tissue, place your other hand on the victim’s forehead tilt his/her chin up, leave the mouth slightly open, and tilt the head backward, be careful if the victim is a child or infant do not tilt the head far back you might cause the trachea to collapse.

Sometimes the tongue relaxes and blocks the airway. Once you open it the victim will restore his/her normal breathing.

If the victim is breathing adequately, maintain an open airway, and place the victim in the recovery position.

In case of Inadequate breathing provide ventilation in between and in conjunction with the victim’s attempts at breathing.

If the victim is not breathing, prepare to perform chest compressions.

If the victim is totally not breathing then start a CPR 5 cycles 30 Compressions:2 ventilation each cycle

In some situations, you’ll find that the victim has a pulse but doesn’t breathe. In this case, all you have to do is mouth-to-mouth ventilation, make sure you’re using some sort of barrier when you perform artificial ventilation to avoid disease transmission.

Remember reading about basic life support alone isn’t enough, in the case of an emergency you need to be confident and well prepared to deal with the situation, 4 minutes can save your loved ones from dying.

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