Emergency Situations that Require Supplemental Oxygen

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Oxygen is essential to life. Without oxygen, an individual can die in minutes. This is also the reason why first aid procedures put great emphasis on establishing proper oxygenation. For instance, in CPR, the initial action is to establish an open airway and to provide oxygen through rescue breaths.

Oxygen administration is an important skill for every first aider to learn. First aiders must have basic knowledge on how to use oxygen equipment, as well as when and how to administer oxygen. Victims of breathing emergencies have a better chance of survival if they receive supplemental oxygen immediately. There are different reasons why an individual would require oxygen:

A short YouTube video clip showing about Administering Oxygen via Non Rebreather Mask and Nasal Cannula

  • Respiratory arrest – the person’s lung has ceased to function, causing an inadequate gas exchange in the lungs.
  • Cardiac arrest – the heart is unable to pump adequate amount of blood into the systemic circulation. Take note that respiratory arrest may occur alongside or as a result of cardiac arrest.
  • Major blood loss – there is not enough volume of blood that carries oxygen to body tissues because of the reduction in the number of red blood cells. This forces the heart to pump harder, demanding increased amounts of oxygen. Victims of major trauma that lead to blood loss require supplemental oxygen.
  • Lung disease or injury – the ability to move gases in and out of the lungs may be significantly compromised, leading to a decrease in oxygen supply to body tissues.
  • Heart attack and heart failure – the heart is unable to effectively pump oxygenated blood towards vital body organs.
  • Shock – the cardiovascular system fails to deliver sufficient blood to all vital tissues of the body. All types of shock can cause a reduction in the amount of oxygenated blood into body tissues.
  • Airway obstruction – obstructions in air passages can cause a significant reduction in the amount of oxygen that reaches the lungs.
  • Stroke – interruption in the supply of oxygen to the brain can cause significant damage to brain tissues. Take note that the brain requires constant supply of oxygen. Lack of oxygen in the brain can cause the blood vessels to constrict, causing an irreversible damage to the brain.
  • Major head injuries – trauma to the cardiovascular system and airway obstruction can all cause a reduction in the amount of oxygen supplied to the brain.

When providing first aid, it is important to remember that atmospheric air only provides no more than 21 percent oxygen. In normal situations, this percentage of air is enough to supply adequate amounts of oxygen to the lungs, provided that the airway is clear and body organs are functioning well.

Administering emergency oxygen is an advanced skill that you can learn through advanced first aid course. Usually, it is a regular part of training for professional rescuers and healthcare professionals such as lifeguards, firefighters, and EMTs.

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