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Breathing difficulties - first aid

  • Alternative Names

    Difficulty breathing - first aid; Dyspnea - first aid; Shortness of breath - first aid

    First Aid
    1. Call 911 immediately.
    2. Check the person's airway, breathing, and circulation. If necessary, begin CPR and first aid for bleeding.
    3. Loosen any tight clothing.
    4. Help the person use any prescribed medication (such as an asthma inhaler or home oxygen).
    5. Continue to monitor the person's breathing and circulation until medical help arrives. DO NOT assume that the person's condition is improving if you can no longer hear wheezing.
    6. If there are open wounds in the neck or chest, they must be closed immediately, especially if air bubbles appear in the wound. Bandage such wounds at once.
    7. A "sucking" chest wound allows air to enter the person's chest cavity with each breath. This can cause a collapsed lung. Bandage the wound with plastic wrap, a plastic bag, or gauze pads covered with petroleum jelly, sealing it except for one corner. This allows trapped air to escape from the chest, but prevents air from entering the chest through the wound.

    Do Not
    • DO NOT give the person any foods or drinks.
    • DO NOT move the person if there has been a chest or airway injury, unless it is absolutely necessary.
    • DO NOT place a pillow under the person's head if he or she is lying down. This can close the airway.
    • DO NOT wait to see if the person's condition improves before getting medical help. Get help immediately.

    Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

    Call 911 if you or someone else has labored breathing, especially if accompanied by:

    • Blue lips, fingers, or fingernails
    • Chest pain
    • Coughing up large amounts of blood
    • Dizziness or light-headedness
    • Excessive drooling
    • Facial, tongue, or throat swelling
    • High-pitched or wheezing sounds
    • Hives
    • Inability to speak
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Sweating

    Call your doctor right away if:

    • Your shortness of breath is brought on by coughing, especially productive coughing.
    • Your child's cough has a barking sound.
    • You have a fever, green or yellow phlegm, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite, or swelling in your legs.
    • You are coughing up small amounts of blood.