How to Perform Rescue Breathing

Three Parts:Checking the SceneClearing the Airway and Giving Rescue BreathsChanging Your Routine with Children and Infants

You are walking down the street, and you see someone lying flat on the sidewalk. You need to know what to do if he or she has stopped breathing. The best thing to do is to start CPR, including rescue breathing, until help arrives.

Part 1
Checking the Scene

  1. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 1
    Check the scene for danger. Your first instinct is to rush into to help someone in trouble, but you don't want to put yourself in danger in the process. Look around the area to make sure it is safe for you to help.[1]
    • For instance, you should look for things live electrical wires, falling rocks, live power tools, or people with weapons. Also, make sure that you and the person in trouble are out of the way of oncoming traffic if you are near a roadway.
  2. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 2
    See if the person is conscious. Talk to the person, and gently shake her. Ask for her name. See if she can talk to you. If she can focus on you, she's conscious, but that doesn't mean she's able to breathe.[2]
    • An unconscious person will be completely unresponsive. She will not respond to painful stimulus, such as a hard pinch to the neck.[3]
  3. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 3
    Check for breathing. Place your ear near the person's lips and listen. Watch his chest at the same time. If you can't see his chest rising and falling, he likely isn't breathing. If he isn't breathing, you are need to begin rescue breathing and chest compressions.[4]
    • Don't spend too long checking. You shouldn't look for more than 10 seconds, as every moment counts.[5]
    • Also, if the person is gasping or hyperventilating, you may still need to provide rescue breathing, as that is not regular breathing.[6]
  4. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 4
    Phone for help. Grab a nearby person, and tell her to dial 911. If you are alone, make sure you call 911 before starting rescue breathing. Otherwise, no one will be on the way to help you.[7]
  5. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 5
    Look for other injuries. Not breathing is serious, but make sure the person doesn't have another injury, such as a severely bleeding wound. You may need to stem blood before you help the person breathe.[8]

Part 2
Clearing the Airway and Giving Rescue Breaths

  1. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 6
    Put the person on his back. Be gentle, but turn the person so he is laying face-up. If you suspect a back or neck injury, try to have someone help you turn the person.[9]
    • To do so, the person helping you should grab a hip and a shoulder in the direction you want to turn the patient while you guide his head.
  2. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 7
    Tip her head back. Place a hand across the forehead and a hand below the chin, then tilt the head back. This opens the airway to allow air to enter the lungs.[10]
    • If you suspect a neck, head, or spine injury, you should not perform the head tilt. If you have been trained, perform a jaw-thrust. Kneel above the person's head and place a hand on either side of her head. Place your middle and index fingers behind and under her jaw, then push up so the jaw is jutting out, as though she has an underbite.
  3. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 8
    Check the person's mouth. See if anything in his mouth is blocking the airway. Look for gum or even pills or toothpicks, as all of these things could be in someone's mouth. Remove them before moving onward.[11]
    • If the blockage is down the throat and not in the mouth, do not attempt to pull it out, as you may force it further in.
  4. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 9
    Cover the person's mouth with your mouth. Hold the person's nose. Place your mouth over the person's mouth. You need to completely cover her mouth to get a proper seal, which is also why you hold her nose.[12]
    • If one is readily available, you can use a breathing barrier, which is sometimes included in first aid kids. However, don't let the search for one slow you down.[13]
    • To use a breathing barrier, use a CE grip to get proper suction. The CE grip is done by making a C with your pointer and thumb on both hands and placing is around the round part of the mask. Use all your other fingers to hold under the chin. Make sure to sit directly above the head, facing down the body to properly execute this.
    • If you cannot breathe through the person's mouth, you will need to breathe through her nose. Cover her mouth with your hand, and then use your mouth to cover her nose. Proceed as normal.[14]
  5. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 10
    Blow into the person's mouth. Take at least a second to blow into the person's mouth. Watch to see if his chest rises.[15]
    • If his chest doesn't rise, you may need to check again for anything blocking the airway, or you may need to tilt his head further.[16]
  6. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 11
    Give two breaths in a row. For rescue breathing, you generally give two breaths in a row before moving back to chest compressions in CPR. Chest compressions are only necessary in a patient without a pulse.[17]

Part 3
Changing Your Routine with Children and Infants

  1. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 12
    Don't shake an infant. For children and adults, you can gently shake them to check for consciousness. For infants, lightly flick the bottom of her foot to see if she responds.[18]
  2. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 13
    Give the child or infant rescue breathing before calling 911. Though you definitely want to call for help as quickly as possible, with a child or infant, it's important to give a 2 minute round of CPR before dialing 911, as damage can set in more quickly.[19]
  3. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 14
    Increase the rescue breaths to five. Instead of only giving two rescue breaths, give five breaths to both children and infants.[20]
  4. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 15
    Don't blow as hard. For an adult, you need to blow fairly hard to make her chest rise. With a child or infant, you can blow more gently, as it takes less air to make her chest rise.[21]
  5. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 16
    Cover a baby's mouth and nose. When working on an infant, you will need to cover both the infant's mouth and nose with your mouth. A baby's mouth is too small to just cover the mouth.[22]
    • If a baby's chest doesn't rise, re-tilt the head back to try the open the airway. If you still don't see the chest rise, you may need to move on to the procedure for a choking baby.[23]
  6. Image titled Perform Rescue Breathing Step 17
    Keep all other procedures the same. You'll still need to check for obstructions and lightly tilt the child's or infant's head back to open the airway. Also, you'll still need to cover the child's mouth with yours while holding her nose.[24]


  • If you feel unsure about any of these steps, you may wish to take training classes in first aid or CPR. Check with your local American Red Cross or American Heart Association for first aid and CPR courses.
  • If the victim starts to vomit, turn her head to the side. When she has finished vomiting, clear her airway, and continue rescue breathing if needed.

Sources and Citations


Show more... (21)

Article Info

Categories: First Aid and Emergencies | Respiratory Health