How can I tell if someone is having a breathing emergency?

You can be sure of a breathing emergency by listening and looking at the patient. First, is the person able to speak comfortably, or are they having difficulties with speech? Secondly, when looking at their neck and chest, can you see that they are using more of those muscles to breathe than usual? Are they tiring out while breathing? Finally, you can ask the person if they are having trouble breathing. If they answer yes to any of these questions, then it could be a breathing emergency. If they aren't capable of answering you, it's time to seek medical attention.
Watch and listen to the person’s breathing and ask how he or she feels.

Signals of breathing emergencies include:
  • Trouble breathing or no breathing
  • Slow or rapid breathing
  • Unusually deep or shallow breathing
  • Gasping for breath
  • Wheezing, gurgling or making high-pitched noises
  • Unusually moist or cool skin
  • Flushed, pale, ashen or bluish skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Pain in the chest or tingling in the hands, feet or lips
  • Apprehensive or fearful feelings

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.