A person can stop breathing for many reasons: sudden illness, allergy, a serious accident. When a person is not breathing, but still has a pulse, it is crucial that you perform Rescue Breathing - in effect, breathing for the unconscious person.
When a person stops breathing, there are a crucial few minutes that pass before brain damage and death occur. In a child, this timeframe is even shorter. In fact, it is recommended that you give an unconscious, not breathing child rescue breaths for a minute before you even call EMS.
| Adult | Child | Infant | When to Stop Rescue Breathing |
Rescue breathing is the act of breathing for a person who is not breathing, yet has a pulse. You should never perform rescue breathing on a stranger unless you have a resuscitation mask, so that you will not catch any contagious disease the victim is carrying.
If the victim is not breathing yet has a pulse, initiate rescue breathing. Use a head tilt and a chin lift to keep the victim's airway open. Pinch the victim's nose shut gently, using your thumb and index finger. Then place your mouth over the victim's mouth, making a seal. Breathe slowly, watching to see the chest rise. Pause in between each breath to let the air flow out. If the victim's chest does not rise and fall, retilt the head and try again. If the air still does not go in, the victim has an obstructed airway, and you must perform abdominal thrusts.
After giving 2 breaths, check for a pulse. If the victim has a pulse but still is not breathing, continue rescue breathing. Give 1 breath every 5 seconds. Count the seconds as "one-one thousand, two-one thousand," etc., taking a breath on "four- one thousand" and breathing into the victim on "five-one thousand."
Check for a pulse after about 1 minute of rescue breathing (about 12 breaths). If the victim has a pulse but still is not breathing, continue rescue breathing and checking the pulse every minute. If the victim's pulse stops, begin CPR.
Rescue Breathing-Infants and Children
To open the airway of an infant or a child, you do not need to tilt the head as far back as an adult's. A very slight tilt should allow air to go in. Give a child or an infant 1 slow breath every 3 seconds. On an infant, you must make a seal over both the infant's mouth and nose. After 1 minute of rescue breathing (about 20 breaths), check for a pulse. If the victim has a pulse but still is not breathing, continue rescue breathing and checking the pulse each minute. If breaths do not go in, retilt and try again. If breaths still do not go in, you must go immediately to abdominal thrusts -child or abdominal thrusts - infant. If the victim's pulse stops, begin CPR - Child or CPR - Infant.
When to Stop Rescue Breathing
Only stop giving rescue breaths if:
- the victim begins to breathe on his or her own
- the victim has no pulse-begin CPR immediately
- more advanced medical personnel takes over
- you are too exhausted to continue
Back to First Aid
Back to Rescue 411 Home Page