Improving breaths

Video 24 of 48
2 min 21 sec

Rescue Breaths and CPR: Guidelines and Alternatives

Rescue breaths play a crucial role in CPR. They should be performed correctly and with proper techniques to maximise their effectiveness in saving lives.

Proper Rescue Breath Technique

CPR providers should:

  • Give rescue breaths with an inflation duration of about 1 second.
  • Provide sufficient volume to make the victim's chest rise.
  • Avoid rapid or forceful breaths.
  • Limit the time between compressions and breaths to no more than 10 seconds.

Dealing with Obstructions

If a breath doesn't go in:

  • Check for obstructions in the mouth, but avoid blind finger sweeps.
  • Re-open the airway and try again, but only attempt the recommended number of times.

Alternative Breathing Methods

Rescue breaths can also be delivered through:

  • Mouth-to-nose ventilation: An acceptable alternative if the victim's mouth is injured, cannot be opened, or a seal is difficult to achieve, or if the victim is in water.
  • Mouth-to-tracheostomy ventilation: Applicable for victims with a tracheostomy tube or tracheal stoma who require rescue breathing.

Barrier Devices

Barrier devices can help reduce bacteria transmission during rescue breathing. However, their effectiveness in clinical practice remains unknown.

Resuscitation Council Recommendations

The Resuscitation Council recommends that individuals trained in CPR should perform both rescue breaths and compressions whenever possible. This is particularly important for children, asphyxial cardiac arrest victims (e.g., drowning), and cases with delayed EMS response. Compression-only CPR should only be performed if rescuers are unable to give rescue breaths.

The latest CPR guidelines are the 2021 UK and European Resuscitation Council guidelines.