Breathing Emergencies: First Aid Essentials

Breathing emergencies can be life-threatening, and knowing how to respond promptly can make a crucial difference in the outcome. Here are the first aid essentials for dealing with breathing emergencies:

1. Check Responsiveness:

  • Approach the person and tap or gently shake them while calling their name.
  • Ask, "Are you okay?" and check for any signs of responsiveness.

2. Call for Help:

  • If the person is unresponsive and not breathing or having difficulty breathing, call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately.

3. Open the Airway:

  • Gently tilt the person's head back while lifting their chin to ensure the airway is open.

4. Check for Breathing:

  • Look, listen, and feel for signs of breathing for about 5-10 seconds.
  • If the person is not breathing or is only gasping for air, begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) immediately.

5. Start CPR:

  • Place the heel of one hand on the center of the person's chest (just below the nipple line).
  • Place the other hand on top of the first hand and interlock your fingers.
  • Position yourself with your shoulders directly over your hands, and use your body weight to compress the chest at least 2 inches (5 centimeters) deep.
  • Perform chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.
  • After 30 compressions, provide two rescue breaths. Ensure that the chest rises visibly with each breath.

6. Use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator):

  • If an AED is available, follow its instructions for attaching and using it as soon as possible.
  • Continue CPR until the AED is ready to analyze or until professional help arrives.

7. If the Person is Breathing but Unconscious:

  • Place the person in the recovery position, on their side with the head tilted slightly back to keep the airway open.
  • Continue to monitor their breathing and be prepared to provide CPR if their breathing stops.

8. Supportive Care:

  • Stay with the person and provide reassurance.
  • If the person has a known severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), assist them with their epinephrine auto-injector if available.

9. Observe for Allergic Reactions:

  • If the person has difficulty breathing due to a known allergy and has an epinephrine auto-injector, help them use it as directed.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for anaphylaxis.

10. Continue CPR:

  • If the person's breathing remains absent or insufficient, continue CPR until professional medical help arrives.

Remember that performing first aid or CPR and using an AED can significantly increase the chances of survival in a breathing emergency. CPR should be administered by trained individuals if possible, but even untrained bystanders can make a difference by providing chest compressions and calling for professional help. Regular training and certification in CPR can help ensure that you are prepared to respond effectively in breathing emergencies.

When it comes to responding to medical emergencies, two essential skills come to the forefront: Standard First Aid and Basic Life Support (BLS). These skills are crucial for providing immediate care and support to individuals in distress. In this guide, we'll explore what each of these terms means, their differences, and why they are vital.

Standard First Aid: Providing Initial Care

Standard First Aid refers to the immediate care and treatment given to a sick or injured person until professional medical help arrives. It focuses on addressing common injuries and medical conditions that require prompt attention. Here are the key components of Standard First Aid:

1. Assessment: The first step in standard first aid is to assess the situation and the injured or ill person. This includes checking for responsiveness, breathing, and any life-threatening conditions.

2. CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation): Standard First Aid often includes basic CPR training. CPR is administered to individuals who are unresponsive and not breathing or not breathing normally. It involves chest compressions and rescue breaths to maintain blood circulation and oxygenation.

3. Bleeding Control: Knowing how to control bleeding is crucial. Standard First Aid teaches techniques for applying pressure to wounds, using bandages and dressings, and elevating injured limbs.

4. Wound Care: This includes cleaning and dressing wounds to prevent infection. Standard First Aid provides guidance on how to clean wounds, apply antiseptic, and cover them appropriately.

5. Fractures and Sprains: Recognizing and providing initial care for fractures (broken bones) and sprains (ligament injuries) is part of standard first aid. This may involve immobilizing the injured area with splints or bandages.

6. Choking: Standard First Aid teaches techniques to help someone who is choking, including the Heimlich maneuver.

7. Shock Management: Understanding how to recognize and manage shock, a life-threatening condition where the body's vital organs aren't receiving enough blood, is a critical aspect of standard first aid.

Basic Life Support (BLS): Sustaining Life in Critical Situations

Basic Life Support (BLS) is a more advanced level of care than standard first aid. BLS is primarily focused on maintaining the vital functions of a person in a life-threatening situation until professional medical help arrives. Here's what you can expect from BLS training:

1. High-Quality CPR: BLS emphasizes high-quality CPR techniques, including effective chest compressions and rescue breaths for individuals in cardiac arrest.

2. Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Use: BLS courses often include training on using an AED, a device that can deliver an electric shock to restore normal heart rhythms in cases of sudden cardiac arrest.

3. Airway Management: BLS covers airway management techniques to ensure that a person's airway is open and clear for breathing. This may involve techniques like the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver.

4. Breathing Support: BLS focuses on providing artificial ventilation, including mouth-to-mouth or bag-mask ventilation, to individuals who are not breathing or are struggling to breathe.

5. Team Dynamics: In situations involving multiple responders, BLS training emphasizes effective communication and teamwork to coordinate efforts efficiently.

Differences and Complementarity

While Standard First Aid and BLS share some common elements, they serve different purposes and skill levels:

  • Standard First Aid is more comprehensive, covering a wide range of injuries and illnesses encountered in everyday life. It's suitable for the general public and those who want to be prepared for common emergencies.
  • BLS, on the other hand, is more specialized and focused on life-threatening situations, particularly those involving cardiac arrest and compromised airways. It's typically required for healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, and paramedics.

In many situations, the two skills complement each other. For example, if someone collapses and stops breathing, a responder trained in both standard first aid and BLS can perform CPR (BLS) while also providing wound care (standard first aid) if necessary.


Both Standard First Aid and Basic Life Support are essential skills for anyone interested in being prepared for medical emergencies. The choice between the two depends on your specific needs, level of training, and the potential situations you may encounter. Whether it's administering CPR, controlling bleeding, or providing basic wound care, having the knowledge and confidence to respond effectively can make a life-saving difference in critical moments.

CPR + First Aid Certification

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