Rescue Breaths… Do They Matter?

You may have seen recent TV adverts that instruct bystanders to concentrate solely on ‘hands-only CPR’. We have provided you with the British Heart Foundation advert below. The simple reasons for this, are that more people would be happy to undertake CPR without the potential risk of conducting mouth to mouth resuscitation, especially without the use of face masks. Many studies have found that a reluctance to attempt CPR is fundamentally down to the lack of will to provide mouth to mouth. Rescue breaths are extremely imperative and further increase the casualty’s chances of survival.

The Resuscitation Council identify that a ‘victim who is unresponsive and not breathing ‘normally’ is in cardiac arrest and requires CPR. Immediately following cardiac arrest blood flow to the brain is reduced to virtually zero’. As such the effect bystander CPR & Mouth to mouth resuscitation is paramount.


What is the science behind mouth to mouth? As I am sure you will know, all of us require oxygen to fulfil our bodies needs of life. The critical thing to remember when dealing with a casualty who is unconscious is that they cannot breathe for themselves… so within 3-4 minutes the residual oxygenated blood will become depleted.  The national charity based organisations such as the Red Cross and St Johns ambulance who are the driving force behind this research still advice that breathing for the casualty with effective chest compressions will give the most significant chance of survival.


While undertaking CPR, you are the person who is pumping the blood around the casualties body. You may have heard the saying ‘if a job is worth doing, its worth doing it right’. Therefore it is exceptionally accurate when conducting CPR. Effective compressions are vital to pump blood around the body, as mentioned after the 3-4 minutes have passed the body has exhausted its residual oxygenated blood and our organs will start to fail. Therefore we advise that doing the job right means to combine 30 compressions with two breaths.


As with any skill, it must be practised and practised. The concept of becoming an expert in something has been around for many years, the theory that practising for 10,000 will make you an expert. So, if we think about a first aid course at its basic level of 3 hours, you can see we have a shortfall. Does this mean you shouldn’t bother? The simple answer is no, of course not. 3 hours is better than zero. But excellent CPR education directly improves survival rates. British Heart Foundation research shows that there are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCAs) in the UK each year. The overall survival rate in the UK is less than 1 in 10. We strongly advise that you attend a Practical First Aid course, this is one thing you don’t want to shortcut and do a brief 1 hour online. You need to be able to see, feel and smell the fear you may have in practical scenarios, and a Quali first aid course can give you that experience. Leaving you to feel ready and willing to save a life.


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