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Why CPR Breaths Still Matter

Why CPR Breaths Still Matter

Life-saving training is always being improved. As we study and research different methods of saving lives, we update life-saving skills to become more efficient – skills such as CPR! CPR breaths is a common topic of conversation, and it is often debated whether rescue breaths are actually needed.


Why Compression-Only CPR?

Many people admit to being uncomfortable giving breaths to a stranger. In order to not deter people from stepping in to save a life, compression-only CPR arose as an alternative to the traditional breath + compression model, which was actually found to be effective too.

However, it is important to note that CPR breaths still matter! Despite what is now commonly accepted, giving breaths do actually make a huge difference! Check out why offering rescue breaths is an impactful step in the CPR method, and why you should consider carrying a barrier device.


Pocket Mask - CPR BreathsWhy CPR Breaths Are Important

When someone has a cardiac arrest, his or her brain stops receiving oxygen. Because the heart is fibrillating (beating in a sporadic rhythm) it is not pumping oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Statistics show that every minute without oxygen to the brain decreases the chances of survival by 7-10%. The longer without air, the more likely the person will suffer from permanent brain damage (some statistics suggest that 3 minutes without oxygen is long enough to result in brain damage).

Of course, CPR is the best way to try to ‘kickstart’ the heart of someone having a cardiac arrest back into a normal rhythm (when an AED is not available). However, compressions alone do nothing to re-supply the patient with oxygen. In instances of cardiac arrest, the total deprivation of oxygen to the brain can lead to ‘anoxic brain injuries.’ As time goes on, more serious results are seen due to this lack of oxygen. According to SpinalCord.com,

  • 30-180 seconds without oxygen leads to unconsciousness
  • 1 minute without oxygen leads to brain cell death
  • 3 minutes without oxygen leads to an increased likelihood of neuron damage and permanent brain damage
  • 5 minutes without oxygen, the individual is close to death
  • 10 minutes without oxygen can lead to body death or most likely cause a coma or permanent brain damage
  • 15 minutes without oxygen is the point where the chances of survival are low if not impossible

When we give the unconscious person a rescue breath, it works to fill their lungs with air in an attempt to replenish their oxygen, increasing their chances of survival!

It is crucial to note that although compressions-only is a viable option for those suffering from a cardiac arrest, there are emergencies that require breaths in order to truly save a life! These emergencies include:CPR

  • Drowning victims
  • Drug or alcohol overdose
  • Choking (or unconscious due to choking)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Asthma attack

In these instances, depending on how long the patient has been unconscious, the oxygen levels are already severely depleted, therefore rescue breaths are required in addition to compressions. When it is someone’s life on the line, knowing that CPR breaths make a difference could be just the thing to save their life.


Giving Breaths Without Mouth-to-Mouth

If giving mouth-to-mouth breaths to another person makes you a bit squeamish, then there are ways that you can still save a life without having to make direct content. The most common method to protect yourself and aid in giving proper breaths is through the use of a Barrier Device. Barrier Devices fit perfectly onto the Patients face and allow you to give effective breaths without ever having to come into contact with their mouth. All first aid kits should be equipped with a Pocket Mask or a Face Shield. Want to take it one step further, or not rely on a public kit? Our keychain CPR Face Shield is a compact and cheap way to be prepared! Having this with you at all times will ensure that you are ready to jump into action and a stranger the CPR breaths and compressions they need to survive!


How to Give CPR Breaths

You’ve seen CPR on TV and in the Movies, but did you know that they are rarely correct in how they portray proper lifesaving skills?

Here’s how to do it right:

After you complete your 30 two-inch deep chest compressions (for an adult), you then open their mouth to give a breath. To give a proper CPR breath, do the following:

  1. Open the airway gently by tilting their head back with by lifting their chin with 2 fingers.
  2. Get ready to give breaths by:
    1. Placing your barrier device (either pocket mask of face shield) over the person’s mouth and nose. Depending upon the barrier device (if it only covers their mouth), you will need to pinch the patient’s nose shut.
    2. If you are not using a barrier device, and feel comfortable putting your mouth on someone else’s mouth, pinch their nose shut and put your lips over their whole mouth to cover theirs.
  3. Give one breath – ensuring that it results in the patient’s chest rising slightly.
    1. If it does not rise, readjust, make sure their head is tilted back, and try again.
    2. If it still does not rise, check to make sure there is nothing blocking their airway (check visually and with your fingers to see if there is something in their throat. See full CPR Walkthrough for more info).
  4. Give the second breath
  5. After two successful breaths, return to the 30 compressions and cycle through until professional medical help arrives

Note: Want a free wallet-sized CPR guide ready for when emergencies do occur? Head to our website and subscribe to receive your FREE CPR Cheat Sheet and always have the steps in your back pocket!


Why First Aid Recertification is Necessary

Things are always changing and technologies are improving. What we once believed to be the best method to save a life may no longer be the most effective.

For example: Do you remember when hitting someone on the back was the best way to help someone when choking (still coughing) but not yet completely blocked? Do you remember how we were then told not to hit someone’s back because it could lodge the object even further? Do you now know that they have brought back the back-slap because they believe that any movement could be good movement? And that’s just in one lifetime!

First Aid certification keeps you in-the-know with the latest life-saving techniques. And just like learning a language, if you don’t use it frequently (which we hope you don’t need to) you’ll need a refresher. Just as it is good to know that compression-only CPR is a valid CPR option, knowing how breaths add extra life-saving support is important as well!

Did you know? The Heimlich maneuver was thought to be too aggressive, so it has now been changed to the J-Thrust. It has been changed not only in name, but to encourage people to use abdominal thrusts paired with back blows (as mentioned above).

Because first aid skills are being continuously revised, it is necessary to update your own knowledge and skillset. First Aid certificates are valid for 3 years (unless otherwise identified by an employer). Once those 3 years have passed, register for a re-certification course (shorter than the full course) and update your CPR and first aid training! You never know what you may learn/re-learn that could be the thing to save a life!


CPR breaths matter! We encourage anyone assisting in an emergency situation to provide breaths to a person in need, so long as it can be done safely and you are comfortable with it! Need to update your skills? Register for a First Edition First Aid Training Course and gain the confidence to assist if the time should come!