The word “asphyxia” is from Ancient Greece, where ‘a’ means ‘without’ and ‘sphuxis’ means ‘pulse’.
In the year 2015, more than 9.8 million cases of unintentional asphyxia resulted in 35,600 deaths. It is therefore crucial that more individuals are equipped with professional training so they act quickly in such situations and save lives.
At the end of this blog post, you’re going to have a good grip on the basics of asphyxia and its possible remedies.
Let’s dive right in!
What Is Asphyxiation?Asphyxia, also known as asphyxiation, is a condition in which the body gets insufficient oxygen due to abnormal breathing. Choking is one example of asphyxia.
Asphyxia results in generalised hypoxia, which predominantly affects the tissues and organs. Asphyxia can be caused by various factors, all of which are defined by an individual's inability to get adequate oxygen via breathing for a prolonged period of time. Asphyxia can result in a coma or perhaps death.
Asphyxiation is a condition that occurs due to a lack of oxygen in a living body. A lack of oxygen in the brain can cause a person to experience a loss of consciousness within seconds. If the person fails to receive oxygen within the next few minutes then they may suffer irreversible brain damage or simply die.
Causes of AsphyxiationAsphyxiation can be caused by a variety of reasons, but it’s broadly divided into 2 categories:
Physical AsphyxiaPhysical asphyxia, also known as mechanical asphyxia, happens when a force or object obstructs your normal breathing. It can lead to various accidents such as:
AsthmaAsthma is a lung disorder that makes breathing difficult at times. A severe asthma episode can prevent a person from receiving sufficient oxygen in their lungs. This may result in asphyxiation if not addressed immediately.
ChokingWhen food or an item gets stuck in your airway, it prevents air from reaching your lungs. This is more likely to happen to the elderly, people who wear dentures or have difficulty swallowing. Choking can happen to babies and toddlers when they eat big chunks of food or put objects in their mouths.
AspirationIt's not the same as choking. When anything you eat or drink "goes down the wrong pipe" and enters your airway or lungs, this is known as aspiration. The substance suffocates your body's air supply. Drowning is the most common type of aspiration.
Suffocation (Smothering)When something heavy covers your face or chest and stops you from breathing, you are suffocating. It may also happen if you're in a situation where oxygen is restricted, like a cramped, airtight environment.
StrangulationA cord, rope, or other objects long enough to reach around your neck restricts your airway, preventing air from reaching your lungs.
Drug OverdoseMost drugs have a strong impact on our breathing. When you consume a stronger dose, it can cause your breathing to slow down, to the point that your body doesn't get sufficient oxygen.
Birth AsphyxiaDuring pregnancy, an unborn baby may get insufficient oxygen. This can happen due to specific reasons such as a shortage of oxygen in the mother's blood, complications in the placenta, and so on. During delivery of the baby, certain complications in the umbilical cord or long labour can cause birth asphyxia.
SeizureEpileptic seizures can lead to a halt in your breathing (also known as apnea), giving way to a dangerously low quantity of oxygen in your body. Furthermore, a seizure can trigger your body to move to the point that closes the airway, eventually stopping you from breathing.
Physical asphyxia can also be caused by various other illnesses or traumas such as heart failure, a broken neck, or an allergic reaction that causes the airways to swell and seal off.
Chemical AsphyxiaThe second type of asphyxia is called "chemical asphyxia” where harmful chemicals can keep oxygen from reaching your cells. Chemicals that can cause asphyxia, include:
Carbon MonoxideThis is a colourless, odourless gas produced by the combustion of several types of fuel. When you inhale too much of it, the gas builds up in your body and replaces the oxygen in your blood.
CyanideIt prevents cells from absorbing oxygen. If you breathe smoke during a fire, come into touch with certain industrial chemicals, or work in industries like mining or metalworking, you're at risk for cyanide poisoning.
Hydrogen SulfideThis gas odour is quite similar to that of a rotten egg. Sewage, liquid manure, sulphur hot springs, and natural gas come under the list of potential sources of Hydrogen Sulphide. When you inhale too much of this gas, it acts like cyanide, which in turn prevents oxygen from reaching your cells.
SymptomsThe following can be noted as symptoms of asphyxia:
TreatmentDepending on individual cases, treatments for asphyxiation can vary. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and Basic Life Support (BLS) are common methods of treating asphyxiation. For example:
Choking: If a victim displays signs of severe airway obstruction, anti-choking methods, such as thrusting, should be performed till the blockage is released. If a victim becomes unconscious, he should simply be laid on the ground for CPR treatment, before reaching out for emergency medical help.
Drowning: Once the victim is retrieved from the water, a rescuer should immediately perform CPR on them for a limited time before the medical emergency professionals come to the rescue. To stop the patient from undergoing hypoxemia, a leading cause of cardiac arrest or death during drowning or choking cases, the rescuer must begin with rescue breaths before moving on to chest compressions (if pulseless).
ConclusionAsphyxia is a kind of breathing difficulty caused by a lack of oxygen in the body. This leads to a reduction in oxygen flow to the brain, which may cause a person to become unconscious or die. Choking, drowning, asthma, or anaphylaxis are all conditions and circumstances that might increase the risk of asphyxia.
At EMCARE, we are on a mission to equip individuals with world-class, high-quality training to respond to various life-threatening conditions, such as asphyxiation. If you’re interested to learn more, you can contact us today.
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