CPR vs. Rescue Breathing: Key Resuscitation Differences

CPR and rescue breathing are techniques helpful in saving the lives of persons experiencing out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest. These two are the basic first aid skills learned during CPR training.

What is CPR?

CPR refers to Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and is taught to people during CPR training and certification courses. CPR involves the creation of an artificial heartbeat to reinstate blood circulation to the vital body organs. It is applicable in cardiac arrest when the victim’s heart stops beating. In such cases, the person is legally dead, but with the performance of CPR, the person can survive.

The main objective of CPR is to restore the person’s blood circulating so that the oxygen can flow to the vital body organs, especially the brain. When the brain is cut short of oxygen supply, its cells start dying, leading to permanent brain damage or brain death.

What is Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest, often referred to as a heart attack, results from an insufficient oxygenated blood supply to the heart. The lack of oxygen causes the heart to lose its ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. At this stage, there is no heartbeat. The medical term for this condition is AMI (acute myocardial infarction). The lack of blood circulation and oxygen supply causes the brain to shut down, and the individual falls unconscious.

Cardiac arrest can result from a wide range of causes. For adults, it can occur due to hanging, respiratory disease, trauma, and heart disease. The same can result from respiratory disease, trauma, congenital cardiac disease, and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) for children and infants.

A person’s brain can die in less than five minutes following a cardiac arrest. However, with the help of CPR, the person’s chance of survival is increased. This is because the blood already in the human body is loaded with enough oxygen to keep the brain and other vital organs alive until the person’s heart is revived. The crucial heartbeat created through CPR performance is critical to maintaining the blood/ oxygen circulating.

CPR on Cardiac Arrest Victim

When the person is unresponsive, it is essential to start the CPR immediately. The earlier CPR is started on the victim, the higher the chances of survival. You give CPR to persons who are not breathing or experiencing difficulties in breathing. It is important to note that some cardiac arrest victims will frequently take in a gasp of air. For such persons, CPR should start immediately. Another sign of cardiac arrest is unresponsiveness and unconsciousness. A lot of time can be wasted on the victim trying to check if they have a pulse.

Skills and knowledge of CPR are easily attainable today, both online CPR classes and in-person CPR classes. However, those already skilled in CPR always need to refresh their skills through CPR re-certification.

rescue breathing

What is Rescue Breathing?

Rescue Breathing is also known as mouth to mouth resuscitation. It is artificial ventilation that aims at stimulating respiration. The victim, in this case, is not breathing or experiencing difficulties in breathing. The technique is also termed pulmonary ventilation done manually through the mouth to mouth or mechanical devices. The procedure uses the air we breathe out to support another person. According to research, a healthy person can only use 20% of the oxygen they breathe in their bodies.

Rescue breathing is performed alongside cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to restore a person’s internal respiration. Other terms used in place of rescue breathing include kiss of life, EAV (expired air ventilation), and EAR (expired air resuscitation).

Some emergency instances solely apply rescue breathing. Among these instances are opiate overdoses and near-drowning.

Also Read- CPR vs Rescue Breathing: The Basic Difference.  

Different Forms of Rescue Breathing:

  • Mouth to mouth resuscitation: During mouth to mouth breathing, the air is passed from the rescuer to the victim’s body through their mouths to make the chest rise.
  • Mouth to nose resuscitation: The air is passed from the rescuer’s mouth to the victim’s body through the nose. It happens in cases where the victim has sustained injuries or cannot receive air through their mouth.
  • Mouth to mouth and nose resuscitation: This procedure is applicable primarily in infants and babies of up to one year.
  • Mouth to mask resuscitation: These days, mouth to mask resuscitation has been on the rise due to the risk involved in spreading infectious diseases. Most professionals advise the use of the technique in performing rescue breathing.
cpr and rescue breathing

Steps to Perform CPR and Rescue Breathing:

Generally, CPR involves chest compressions; it slightly differs in children and adults. It’s also important to know the five fommon fide effects of CPR.

1. Ensure That You Are in a Safe Environment:

The person assisting the victim should take caution not to compromise on their health and safety. Ensure that both you and the victim are in a safe environment. The person should scan the environment for any objects or conditions that could have caused the cardiac arrest. If needed, try to move the person as gently as possible.

2. Check if the Victim Is Responsive:

The second step while performing the CPR is to check if the victim is responsive/ unconscious. It can be done by gently shaking the person’s shoulder and asking them if he/she is okay. You must also call for help or ask someone else to dial 191as you stay focused on the victim.

3. Open the Airway:

With the person lying flat on their back and tilt their head slightly upwards by placing your hand on their forehead. Open their mouth. It is essential to remove any foreign objects in their mouth or airway. However, if you experience difficulties doing so, start on the chest compressions.

4. Check for Breathing:

Assess for breathing by looking, listening, and feeling for signs. For a person with normal breathing, roll them to their side as you wait for professional help to arrive.

If the person does not show any signs of breathing, kneel beside the victim’s shoulders. Place the heel of your hand right in between the person’s nipples. Place the other hand on top of the first and firmly interlock your fingers. Keep your arms straight and shoulders directly above. Push forward on the person’s chest to a depth of 6cm or 2.4 inches for adults. The compressions should be 1.5 inches to 2 inches for children and infants, being cautious not to exceed 2.4 inches.

Read detail about CPR Hands Placement.  

5. Give Rescue Breaths:

After every 30 chest compressions, give the victim two rescue breaths or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Slightly open up the victim’s mouth, with their head slightly tilted upwards. Pinch the person’s nose, cover their mouth with your own and blow in.

Ensure that as you give the rescue breath, you see the victim’s shoulder rise and fall. If the person remains unresponsive, go on to provide the second rescue breath. Target at giving 100 to 120 compressions per minute and eight rescue breaths per minute.

If you are uncomfortable providing the person mouth to mouth, keep performing hands-only CPR or 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute until you see signs of life or emergency medical help arrives. However, if the breathing stops, watch out to restart the process. However, it is essential to keep performing the chest compressions on unresponsive persons until the professional medical team takes over.

Also Read- Compression Rate for CPR Adults, Children, and Infants.  


CPR on its own has low chances of restarting the heart without using an AED or Automated External Defibrillator. The person performing CPR should keep the chest compressions going until they are fully exhausted and can get someone else to continue. It is essential in saving a person’s life to keep his brain and other organs alive.

To perform CPR and rescue breathing effectively, they need to enroll in a proper CPR class. In the new American Heart Association guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care, it’s stated that untrained bystanders can only give compression-only CPR or hands-only CPR (CPR without rescue breathing) while waiting for the emergency medical services team to arrive.

Why Go for Online CPR Classes?

Online CPR/AED training and certification courses offer people an opportunity to learn all about CPR and give them the necessary confidence to rescue cardiac arrest victims. Moreover, if someone has an outdated CPR certification, they can quickly refresh their skills and knowledge by registering for online CPR re-certification. The courses are designed by experienced, trained physicians and include the New 2019 ECC Guidelines & National Emergency Response Organization Standard. Through online CPR certification , an individual also acquires expertise in using the AED.

Take a Free CPR, AED & First Aid Practice Test and prepare yourself for the official CPR certification exam.

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