First Aid Techniques
At the Emergency Scene
Action in An Emergency
Assessing a Casualty
Maintaining Airway,
Breathing, and Circulation
What to do When Somebody has Collapsed
The recovery Position for
The recovery Position for
Children and Babies
Rescue Breathing for Adults
Rescue Breathing for
Children and Babies
CPR for Adults
CPR for Children and Babies
Choking in Adults
Choking in Children
Choking in Babies
Everyday First Aid
Minor Wounds
Infected Wounds
Dealing with Splinters and
Fish Hooks
Foreign Bodies
Animal Bites
Insect Bites and Stings
More on Bites and Stings
Earaches, Toothache, and
Sore Throat
Abdominal Pain
Vomiting and Diarrhea
Hysteria, Hiccups, and Panic
Equipment, Medicines, and Complementary Medicine
Using Dressings and Cold
First Aid Kit for the Home
First Aid Kit for the Car
Wilderness First Aid Kit
Observation Chart/Victim
Storing and Using Medication
Commonly Prescribed
What They Do and Side
Drug Interactions
The Complementary
Medicine Chest
Breathing Difficulties

In a first aid situation you are likely to encounter a victim who has breathing difficulties. Psychological stress may trigger breathing problems that affect the blood’s chemical composition, causing a range of symptoms that make the victim feel unwell. Accidents that include a heavy impact to the chest can cause injuries that result in sever breathing difficulties.

This is a breathing difficulty that may be triggered by the stress of an accident or some other form of emotional shock. the person over-breathes, causing level of carbon dioxide in the blood drop. This leads to a combination of the signs and symptoms listed below:

  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Feeling of tingling in the limbs
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Panic attacks


  1. If the victim is otherwise uninjured, remove her from the scene of the accident to a quiet place where there is no audience. People are hyperventilating often subconsciously react to onlookers, making themselves worse.

  2. Reassure the victim but remain calm and speak firmly. Encourage the victim to regain control of her breathing.

  3. If the situation persists, and you are certain that here is no underlying condition such as asthma or chest injury, let the victim inhale her own breathed-out air from a paper bag, which will help restore the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

  4. Call a doctor or ambulance if symptoms do not disappear. Do not slap the victim---she may become violent and attack you, and you run the risk of being charged with assault.


Serious injuries following an accident, or the aftermath of any illnesses causing problems with breathing, can lead to the lung collapsing. Air enters the space between the lung and the chest wall, making breathing very difficult. In severe cases, the pressure affects the uninjured lung and the heart, causing a tension pneumothorax, a condition requiring urgent medical attention if the victim is to survive.

Chest injuries with more than one broken rib will often result in the victim having difficulty in breathing as the chest wall is unable to move effectively. There may also be an open break on the chest wall on the where ribs extend around the back and there may be injuries here as well as on the front.

Chest injuries may be accompanied by a sucking wound on the chest. Here there is a direct passage between the outside and the lungs, often caused by a puncture injury from a sharp object pushing through the chest wall.


  • History of chest impact or recent illness affecting breathing
  • Chest rises as the person breathes out (paradoxical breathing)
  • Swelling or indentation along the line of the ribs
  • Open fractures
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Pain on breathing
  • Shock, as there is likely to be some degree of internal bleeding
  • Bright red, frothy blood coming from the mouth and/or nose. (This is an indication of a punctured lung because oxygenated blood is escaping from the respiratory system. There may or may not be an associated sucking wound to the chest.)
  • Sucking wound to the chest


Ensure that an early call for emergency medical help has been made. If the victim is conscious, she will often find it easier to breathe if sitting up. Help her into a sitting-up position if possible and provide support to remain in this position comfortably. If you can determine the side of the injury, lean the victim to the injured side. This helps relieve pressure on the good lung, allowing the victim to breathe a little easier.

If there is an open sucking wound to the chest, cover this up as soon as possible.
The best cover comes from using plastic sealed on three sides over the wound area. Help the victim remove blood from her mouth. If the person becomes unconscious, place into the recovery position on the injured side and monitor breathing carefully. Treat any open wound once the person is in the recovery position. Treat any broken ribs.


Reduced carbon dioxide levels in the blood can be restored to normal by slowly breathing into and out of the paper bag about 10 times and then breathing normally for 15 seconds until the rapid breathing ceases.
Vomiting and Diarrhea

First Aid Procedures
Breathing Difficulties
Anaphylactic Shock
Heart Problems
Treatment of External Bleeding
Bleeding from the Head or
Treating Chest or Abdominal
Crush Injuries, Impalement,
and Amputation
Internal Bleeding
Eye Wounds and Embedded
Bleeding from Special Sites
Controlling Bleeding from the Mouth and Nose
Fractures, Discolorations, and
Soft Tissue Injuries
How to Treat Fractures
Fractures of the Skull, Face,
and Jaw
Fractures of the Upper Body
Fractures of the Arm and Hand
Fractures of the Ribcage
Recognizing Back and Spinal
If you have to move the Victim
Unconscious Victim
Injuries to the Lower Body
Injuries to the Lower Leg
Sprains and Strains
Burns and Scalds
Treating Other Types of Burn
Chemical Burns and Eye Burns
Extreme Cold
Extreme Heat
Poisoning from Household
Poisoning from Industrial
Drug Poisoning
Alcohol Poisoning
Food Poisoning
Emergency Childbirth
Wilderness First Aid
What to Do if You are a Long Way from Help
Wilderness First Aid
Avalanche and Snow Survival Techniques
Cold Water Survival
Stretcher Improvising
Loading and Carrying a
One-and-Two-Person Carries
Helicopter Rescue