What Is Mouth-To-Mouth Resuscitation?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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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.


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Post 8

Once my mum had a severe asthma attack and stopped breathing. It was just me home with my two year old sister. I called an ambulance and they told me to give mum mouth-to-mouth, because she still had a pulse. So I did. It was so scary.

Mum looked dead. Her face was a greyish white and her lips where dark blue. It was a bit gross because mum's lips were also very cold and she had saliva all around her mouth. I kept blowing into her mouth until the she started breathing again. My little sister kept crying and asking questions like "Why is mummy asleep?" Why are you kissing mummy?" "Is mummy okay?" It was very upsetting and scary. But mum survived and luckily had no brain damage.

Post 7

You'd never think your breath could save someone's life, hey? I watched my friend give her boyfriend mouth-to-mouth after an accident at a pool party. She was so scared, shaking the entire time. But she did it.

Post 6

Mouth-to-mouth is not a pleasant thing to have to do. I've done it twice.

The first time was on my mum when she had an asthma attack. She still had a pulse, but her face was turning blue. So, I immediately pinched her nostrils closed and breathed into her mouth. I gave about 10 breaths before she luckily started to breath again.

The second time was on a young woman at a non-patrolled beach. Me and another woman dragged her out of the water and onto the sand. It was quite disgusting as her mouth was caked full of sand, she had foamy water flowing out and I actually had to reach my hand down her throat

to pull out a piece of seaweed. It's awful doing mouth-to-mouth on a drowning victim. Their lips are all purple, cold and slimy and sometimes they vomit or cough up water while you're breathing for them.

But knowing it and doing it saves lives.

Post 5

When I worked as a lifeguard in the summer, knowing how to perform CPR was a requirement for the job. Every year we would go through a training class or take a refresher course.

I am so thankful that I never had to use this on someone. I think that in an emergency situation where you were required to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and/or chest compressions, that your training would kick in and you would know exactly what to do.

Post 4

My husband has to keep up with his CPR training for his job. Now they are saying that in most cases, using chest compressions is adequate when giving CPR to someone and that you don't have to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

I think it is valuable for everybody to know how to give CPR. You never know when you are going to be a situation where you might need to use it to save someone's life.

Thinking about giving someone mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can be scary. You would wonder if you were doing it right and many might be put off by the mouth-to-mouth procedure.

I am sure that it helped save the lives of many people, but also think that a lot of people will be more willing to learn CPR if they know that only chest compressions are required.

Post 3

I once successfully brought someone back to life using CPR. I was walking next to a lake and I saw someone floating face down in the water. I ran into the water and pulled them out. They still had color and heat in their skin so I knew they must still be alive.

I have never been trained in CPR but I have seen enough medical dramas and TLC to have a basic understanding of what to do. I was super nervous but I decided to just go for it, I couldn't see any other option. After about a minute and a half the guy coughed up a bunch of water and started breathing again.

I wondered how

he had ended up out there with no one else around and he said that he had been thrown from a boat and that no one had noticed. I'm not sure which part of the story is crazier, his part or mine.
Post 2

I bet a lot of us have had the unusual experience of breathing into the mouth of a CPR dummy. I have had to do this several times in my life and it never gets easier or less weird.

Maybe I am extra sensitive to this but I was always put off by breathing into the mouth of a mannequin. There is also something very strange about trying to breathe life back into something that you know is dead, that was never even alive.

I think my feelings stem from an experience I had at my very first CPR class in middle school. The instructor asked me to carry the dummy and I could feel its thick plastic skin and its big hollow chest under my hands. I was surprisingly grossed out by it. That has always stayed in my head and now I get a little squeamish around the CPR dummy.

Post 1

I have heard a number of commercials on the radio lately about performing hands only CPR. And I thought that I saw a news report saying that a major medical association is now recommending that the average individual not attempt mouth to mouth, only use their hands. This leads me to believe that mouth to mouth has been discredited for some reason. Does anyone know more about this story? Which is the right method? I hope that I never have to use either but its good to be prepared.

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