Hesperian Health Guides

Rescue Breathing (Mouth-to-Mouth Breathing)

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Appendix A: Safety and Emergencies > Rescue Breathing (Mouth-to-Mouth Breathing)


A person can die within 4 minutes if she does not breathe. If a person stops breathing for any reason, begin mouth-to-mouth breathing right away! If the person swallowed chemicals, mouth-to-mouth breathing can also expose you to the chemical, so before you start mouth-to-mouth breathing, cover your mouth with a pocket mask, or a piece of cloth or thick plastic wrap with a hole cut in the middle.

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Step 1: Quickly use a finger to remove anything stuck in the mouth or throat.
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Step 2: Quickly but gently lay the person face up. Gently tilt his head back and pull his jaw forward.
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Step 3: Pinch his nostrils closed with your fingers, open his mouth, cover his mouth with yours, and blow strongly into his lungs so that his chest rises. Pause to let air come back out and blow again. Repeat about every 5 seconds. With babies and small children, cover both the nose and mouth with your mouth, and breathe very gently about once every 3 seconds. Continue rescue breathing until the person can breathe by himself, or until there is no doubt he is dead. Sometimes you must keep trying for an hour or more.


Note: Unless there is an open sore or bleeding in the mouth, it is not possible to give or get HIV or hepatitis from mouth-to-mouth breathing.