Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is a first aid procedure used on people when they stop breathing. The basic idea behind the technique is to breathe in place of an incapacitated person by exhaling air into their lungs forcibly. It was first invented in the late 1950s, and has become a standard part of the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedure, which also includes chest compression. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is used in a wide variety of situations, including drowning accidents and cases of cardiac arrest.
When performing this procedure, the first step is generally to check and make sure the person’s airway isn’t blocked. This is normally done by rolling the individual onto his belly and forcing the mouth open to check inside for any obstacles. If nothing is found, the person is then rolled onto his back, and his head is gently tilted back. The person’s nose is then pinched, and his mouth is opened. The person administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is then required to take a deep breath, seal his lips around the subjects, and exhale for about two seconds.
Under normal circumstances, the process is repeated every five seconds or so. After each exhalation, it is generally advised for the person administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to turn the head to the side, and listen for an exhalation from the subject. The exact procedure varies somewhat depending on the age and condition of the subject. For example, when performing this procedure on an infant, the exhalation is supposed to be significantly less forceful, and only for approximately one second.
Some doctors have shied away from recommending mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on cardiac arrest victims, except in the case of children. Hands only CPR with chest compression methods is sometimes thought to be more effective by itself in those situations. The reason for this is that most cardiac arrest patients still have oxygen in their bloodstream, so getting the heart started again is a more important priority than getting oxygen into the lungs. For children with cardiac arrest, this is not always the case, which is the primary reason for the exception.
James Elam and Peter Safar are the people generally credited as the inventors of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Elam was the main creator of the mouth-to-mouth procedure, but Safar was instrumental in helping to standardize the basic method used, and he also helped incorporate it into the standard CPR protocols. A pamphlet was published in 1959, which outlined the basics of performing the procedure and helped popularize the technique in the late 1950s.