Asphyxia: Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Complications and First Aid Management

Asphyxia is a condition of the body that occurs from severely Asphyxia Causesinadequate oxygen supply or excessive carbon dioxide to the body. It is usually a result of disruption in breathing or insufficient oxygen supply. Nerve cells in the brain can survive only up to four minutes without oxygen. Without oxygen, these cells will die and usually leads to unconsciousness, and the most severe consequence, death. There are many causes of asphyxia, which all generally lead to hypoxia. Response will vary on the cause of asphyxia.

Causes of Asphyxia

Sometimes, it may be quite obvious when one is suffering from asphyxiation. Asphyxia can be caused by any of the following:

  • Airway obstruction
    • Choking from food, blood, vomit or broken teeth
    • May also occur in unconscious victim when the tongue falls to the back of the throat
    • Chest compression or collapsed lung, from road accidents or any penetrating injury to the chest
    • Drowning or near drowning
    • Gas poisoning
      • Carbon monoxide poisoning from home appliances releasing fumes or released by car exhaust or other toxic fumes
      • Electrical accidents
      • Strangulation
        • From attempted suicide by hanging or attempt to kill another person by placing grasping the neck
        • Suffocation
        • Others
          • Severe asthma attack or bronchitis
          • Whooping cough

Signs and Symptoms of Asphyxia

Any of the following symptoms can lead to asphyxia.

  • Difficulty and/ or noisy breathing, which may ultimately lead to cessation
  • Rapid pulse
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cyanosis of the face
  • Swollen veins on the head and neck
  • Convulsions
  • Paralysis
  • Slowly losing consciousness

Complications from Asphyxia

Although there are only a few numbers of possible complications from asphyxia, they are, nonetheless, severe and sometimes, irreversible.

First Aid Management for Asphyxia

It is necessary to give first aid and if necessary, CPR, to any patient who is at risk of asphyxia. Steps will vary per scenario. Disclaimer: the information and procedure to be given do not substitute for the hands on and practical knowledge taught by first aid training. To increase chances of survival of patients and know how to give appropriate first aid, it is highly encouraged to enroll in first aid courses made available by St Mark James.

  • Have someone call for emergency medical services immediately.
  • Choking
    • Perform Heimlich Maneuver (which will vary in adults, children, and pregnant women) to remove the object
    • Drowning
      • Safely remove the victim from the water.
      • Gas poisoning
        • Get the victim into fresh air only if it is safe to go in the place. Evacuate anyone else in the same establishment.
        • Suffocation
          • Remove anything blocking the airway, such as plastic bags immediately
          • Strangulation
            • Remove the object used to strangle immediately
            • Asthma attack
              • Assist the victim to sit upright and assist to medication.
              • For all victims of asphyxiation,
                  • Loosen any tight clothing, especially around the neck.
                • Check for airway, breathing and circulation
                • If the victim is unconscious and not breathing with no pulse, perform CPR. To do CPR
                  • Place own hand on the middle’s chest and entangle the second hand on top of the first. Give 30 chest compressions, followed by 2 rescue breaths.
                  • To give a rescue breath, tilt the chin upward and backwards to prevent any obstruction in the airways. Pinch nostril of casualty and seal the mouth of the victim using own mouth.
                  • Repeat cycle of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths until signs of circulation are perceived.
  • If the victim has pulse but not breathing, give rescue breaths.
  • Do not leave victims of asphyxia alone at all times, even if consciousness is regained.

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