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Mouth to mouth resuscitation, also known as rescue breathing, is the process of blowing air into a victim to inflate their lungs and essentially breathe for them. The air you exhale still has enough oxygen to supplement another person’s breathing. By blowing this air into their lungs, you keep the blood circulating throughout their body oxygen rich. This buys time by postponing brain cell death, which otherwise sets in five to ten minutes after a person stops breathing.

Mouth to mouth rescue breathing may also restart a child’s own breathing, particularly if they stopped breathing because of an acute trauma, such as drowning or a blow to the chest. Because it inflates and deflates the lungs, it may massage the organ back into its normal routine, causing breathing to resume on its own.

When to perform mouth to mouth on a child

You should perform emergency rescue breathing when a child is unconscious and isn’t breathing, but does have a pulse. If a child is unconscious and without a pulse, you should use rescue breathing in conjunction with CPR.

Checking a child for signs of breathing

To check a child for breathing, place your cheek next to their mouth and nose while simultaneously watching their chest. You want to look, listen, and feel. Look to their chest to see if it rises and falls, listen for the sound of breathing, and feel for-breaths against your cheek. Licking your fingers in order to wet your cheek may assist you in feeling for a child’s breath. You should also remove their shirt (or cut it off if you suspect a spine injury) so that you have an unobstructed view of their chest.

How to perform mouth to mouth on a child: Child rescue breathing in 3 easy steps

Follow these steps to perform mouth to mouth on a child:

Step 1.  Position yourself to one side of the child’s body. Place your palm on their head, your fingers under their chin, and tilt their head back slightly to open your child’s airway.

Step 2.  Pinch the nose and cup your mouth over their mouth, forming an air-tight seal. If the child is a toddler, you may find it easier to place your mouth over both their nose and mouth rather than pinching the nose. Whichever method is easier and gives you an airtight seal is fine. Without this airtight seal, your rescue breaths will leak out the cracks rather than getting to the child’s lungs.

Step 3.  Steadily blow a full breath into your child’s lungs until you see their chest rise, then turn your head to the side and watch their chest as the air escapes. Blow in another breath. Repeat this process over and over again to mimic your child’s own breathing. If you have trouble getting a seal each time, you can skip the turning your head part, just watch their chest from the corner of your eye. A child’s lungs are more developed than an infant’s, so it would be awfully hard to hurt them by blowing too much. You should use their chest as a guideline for how much to blow.

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