Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation: Life-Saving Technique for Emergencies

This comprehensive guide about mouth to mouth resuscitation will discuss the step by step procedure, how mouth to mouth resuscitation works, and how it differs in adult child, and Infants. This page also discussed its history and when it is necessary to perform mouth to mouth Resuscitation.


When someone's breathing stops, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can be a lifesaving move. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, also known as rescue breathing or artificial respiration, is a lifesaving first aid technique used to help someone who has stopped breathing or is having difficulty breathing. Below is a step by step procedure on how to do mouth to mouth resuscitation:


  1. Assess the Situation: Ensure the area is safe by checking for dangers like traffic, fire, or chemicals. Make sure the scene is secure for both the victim and the rescuer.
  2. Position the Victim: Place the person on their back on a flat surface, aligning their head with their body. If there's a possibility of spinal injury, avoid moving them unless necessary for lifesaving aid.
  3. Clear the Airway: Gently tilt the person's head back and lift their chin to open the airway. Remove any visible obstructions like objects or fluids from the mouth or throat.
  4. Pinch the Victim's Nose: Before giving rescue breaths, pinch the person's nose shut to ensure air goes into their lungs during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  5. Create a Seal with Your Mouth: Cover the person's mouth completely with yours to create a tight seal for effective air delivery.
  6. Deliver Rescue Breaths: Give two slow and full breaths into the person's mouth, allowing their chest to rise visibly with each breath.
  7. Observe Chest Movement: Watch for chest movement after each breath, allowing the person to exhale fully before the next breath.
  8. Repeat Rescue Breaths: Continue rescue breaths at regular intervals, typically one breath every 5-6 seconds, until the person breathes on their own or professional help arrives.
  9. Monitor the Victim: Keep an eye on the person's condition. If they improve, place them in a recovery position and wait for medical help. If they remain unresponsive and not breathing, continue rescue breaths as part of CPR until help arrives.


Step1: Assess the Situation

Before approaching the victim, it is crucial to assess the situation carefully. Ensure the scene is safe for the rescuer and the person in distress. Look for potential hazards like traffic, fire, water, or harmful chemicals. Make sure the area is secure and free from any dangers that could pose a threat during the rescue.


Step 2: Position the Victim

Once you've determined the scene is safe, gently position the victim on their back on a flat, firm surface. Properly align their head with the rest of their body, ensuring the airway is straight and open. If there are any apparent spinal injuries or trauma, avoid moving the person unless it is necessary to provide lifesaving assistance.


Step 3: Clear the Airway

To ensure no airway obstruction, gently tilt the victim's head backward while lifting their chin. This maneuver helps open the airway by pulling the tongue away from the back of the throat and allowing for easy passage of air into the lungs. Check for visible objects, fluids, or vomit in the mouth or throat. If present, carefully sweep them out with your fingers or a cloth to clear the airway.


Step 4: Pinch the Victim's Nose

Before delivering rescue breaths, pinch the victim's nose shut using your thumb and index finger. This prevents air from escaping through the nose during the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, ensuring that the air you breathe into the victim's mouth enters their lungs.


Step 5: Create a Seal with Your Mouth

Position your mouth over the victim's mouth to form an airtight seal. Make sure your lips cover the person's mouth entirely, without any gaps. The seal ensures that when you deliver rescue breaths, the air does not escape and is directed efficiently into the victim's lungs.


Step 6: Deliver Rescue Breaths

With the airtight seal, deliver two slow and full rescue breaths into the victim's mouth. Each breath should last about 1 second, allowing enough time for the person's chest to rise visibly with each breath. This rising chest movement indicates that the air is effectively entering the victim's lungs and oxygenating their body.


Step 7: Observe Chest Movement

After delivering each rescue breath, observe the victim's chest movement. Allow the person to exhale fully before providing the next breath. This step ensures that you are not interfering with the natural breathing process and that the person's lungs can empty properly before receiving additional air.


Step 8: Repeat Rescue Breaths

Continue giving rescue breaths at regular intervals, typically one breath every 5-6 seconds. Follow this pattern until the person starts breathing on their own or until professional medical help arrives. The continuous flow of oxygen-rich air will support the person's vital functions and increase their survival chances.


Step 9: Monitor the Victim

While delivering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, constantly monitor the victim's condition. Observe for any signs of improvement, such as spontaneous breathing or the return of a pulse. If the person starts breathing and has a pulse, place them in the recovery position to keep their airway open and wait for professional medical assistance. However, if the victim remains unresponsive and not breathing, continue providing rescue breaths as part of CPR until additional help arrives.

Blood Pressure Category
Systolic (Upper)
Diastolic (Lower)
Health Risks
Less than 120 mm Hg
and Less than 80 mm Hg
Low risk of heart disease or stroke
Maintain healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, no smoking)
120-129 mm Hg
and Less than 80 mm Hg
Doubled risk of cardiovascular complications
Make lifestyle changes (lose weight if overweight, increase physical activity, limit alcohol)
Hypertension Stage 1
130-139 mm Hg
or 80-89 mm Hg
Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease
Lifestyle changes and potentially medication under doctor's guidance
Hypertension Stage 2
140 mm Hg or Higher
or 90 mm Hg or Higher
High risk; can lead to heart failure, vision loss, dementia
Medication required in addition to lifestyle changes as recommended by doctor
Hypertensive Crisis
Higher than 180 mm Hg
nd/or Higher than 120 mm Hg
Immediate danger of life-threatening complications
Seek emergency medical care immediately
Cardiac Arrest
Heart Attack
Sudden loss of heart function, leading to collapse
Blockage in a coronary artery, affecting blood flow to the heart muscle
Interruption of blood flow to the brain, leading to brain damage
Main Cause
Electrical malfunction of the heart
Blockage in coronary arteries
Blockage or rupture of blood vessels in the brain
Circulation Affected
Entire body
Heart muscle
Brain tissue
105Sudden collapse, unconsciousness, no pulse
Chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath
Sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech/73
Emergency Response
Immediate CPR and defibrillation
Activate emergency medical services, chew aspirin
Activate emergency medical services, FAST assessment (Face, Arms, Speech, Time)
CPR, defibrillation
Thrombolytic therapy, angioplasty, stenting
Thrombolytic therapy, clot retrieval,
Long-term Management
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), medication management
Medication management, lifestyle changes, cardiac rehabilitation
Medication, rehabilitation, lifestyle changes
Dependent on prompt CPR and defibrillation, underlying health conditions
Dependent on extent of heart muscle damage, effectiveness of intervention
Dependent on severity of brain damage, rehabilitation progress
Risk Factors
Previous heart conditions, arrhythmias, electrolyte imbalances
Atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, smoking, diabetes
Hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation

What is Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation?

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is a lifesaving first aid technique used to help someone who has stopped breathing or is having difficulty breathing. It is a fundamental component of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), an emergency procedure to maintain blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs when a person's heartbeat and breathing have ceased. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation plays a crucial role in situations where a person's breathing or heartbeat has stopped, such as cardiac arrest, drowning, or suffocation.


How does Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation Work

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation works by providing a continuous flow of oxygen-rich air from the rescuer's breath into the lungs of a person who has stopped breathing or is experiencing difficulty breathing. This lifesaving technique helps to restore the oxygen supply to the person's body and vital organs, supporting their chances of survival.

By providing a steady flow of oxygen from one person's breath to another, this lifesaving procedure can kick-start the recipient's respiratory system and circulatory functions, buying precious time until professional medical help arrives.


When was Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation Invented?

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation has ancient origins, but its systematic use began in the late 18th century. Dr. Pierre-Nicolas-Henri Résus documented and promoted its use in reviving drowning victims. In the 20th century, Dr. Elam and Dr. Safar demonstrated the effectiveness of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, solidifying it as a lifesaving technique. Modern CPR, incorporating chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, evolved from these advancements. Today, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation remains crucial to emergency response, offering hope in dire situations.


What is the indication for mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths?

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, also known as rescue breathing, is a vital first-aid intervention employed when an individual's respiratory functions are compromised or have ceased altogether. This life-saving technique is indispensable in scenarios involving acute respiratory distress or cardiac arrest. Such critical situations may arise from a multitude of causative factors, including but not limited to, aquatic asphyxiation (drowning), mechanical airway obstruction (suffocation), electrical shock (electrocution), pharmacological toxicity (drug overdose), and significant physical injuries.

Here are some specific situations where mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is necessary:

  • Cardiac Arrest: When a person's heart stops beating, it leads to cardiac arrest. In this situation, the person loses consciousness and stops breathing. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is an essential component of CPR to maintain blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs until professional medical help arrives.
  • Drowning: When someone is rescued from drowning, they often have water in their lungs and cannot breathe. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation helps remove water from their airways and restores breathing.
  • Suffocation: In cases of suffocation due to choking, smoke inhalation, or a foreign object blocking the airway, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can restore the person's ability to breathe.
  • Drug Overdose: Certain drugs can depress a person's respiratory system, leading to breathing difficulties or respiratory arrest. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can assist in maintaining breathing until medical assistance is available.
  • Severe Respiratory Distress: Some medical conditions, such as severe asthma attacks or anaphylaxis, can cause respiratory distress, where a person struggles to breathe. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can help provide supplemental oxygen in such cases.

It is essential to recognize the signs of respiratory distress or cardiac arrest and respond quickly by initiating mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and other appropriate measures like calling for emergency medical services. Proper training in CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is crucial to ensure the technique is performed correctly and safely, maximizing the chances of saving a person's life in critical situations.

Trained and untrained individuals may approach emergency situations differently, and the indications for specific actions, including interventions like CPR, vary based on their level of training. Here are some key differences in indications for trained and untrained individuals:

Trained Individuals:

  1. Initiation of CPR: Trained individuals, such as those who have completed basic life support (BLS) or CPR courses, are typically instructed to start CPR if they come across an unresponsive person who is not breathing normally. They may follow a sequence of actions, including chest compressions and rescue breaths, based on the specific guidelines they were trained on.
  2. Assessment of Breathing and Circulation: Trained individuals are taught to assess the person's responsiveness, check for normal breathing, and feel for a pulse. Depending on their training, they may start CPR if the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally.
  3. Use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): Trained individuals are often educated on the use of AEDs. If an AED is available, they may be instructed to use it to deliver electric shocks to the heart in case of a sudden cardiac arrest.

Untrained Individuals:

  1. Call for Help: Untrained individuals are typically advised to call for emergency medical assistance immediately if they come across someone who is unresponsive and not breathing normally. This is a critical step to ensure that professional help is on the way.
  2. Hands-Only CPR: Recent guidelines for untrained bystanders, especially in cases of sudden cardiac arrest in adults, often emphasize hands-only CPR. This involves chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth ventilation. The emphasis is on providing continuous chest compressions until professional help arrives.
  3. Assisting Others: Untrained individuals may be encouraged to assist in non-invasive ways, such as staying with the person, providing comfort, and facilitating access for professional rescuers.


How does mouth-to-mouth resuscitation differ between infants, children, and adults?

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation differs in technique and approach for infants, children, and adults due to their anatomy and physiology variations. Here are the key differences in performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for each group:


Infants (0 to 12 months):

  • The head should be tilted slightly backward to open the airway, but be cautious not to overextend the neck, as infants have relatively large heads and weaker neck muscles.
  • Cover both the infant's nose and mouth with your mouth to create an airtight seal, and deliver gentle breaths lasting about 1 second, ensuring the chest rises visibly.
  • Use minimal breath volume and avoid excessive force, as infants have smaller lung capacity.


Children (1 to 8 years):

  • Position the child's head slightly backward, lifting the chin to open the airway. The technique is similar to that used for adults.
  • Use a mouth-to-mouth technique with both nose and mouth coverage, delivering breaths lasting about 1 to 1.5 seconds, ensuring the chest rises visibly.
  • Adjust the breath volume to accommodate the child's size and age.



  • Tilt the adult's head backward, lifting the chin to open the airway like children.
  • Use a mouth-to-mouth technique, covering the mouth with your mouth to create an airtight seal. Deliver breaths lasting about 1 to 1.5 seconds, ensuring the chest rises visibly.
  • Adjust the breath volume to accommodate the adult's size and lung capacity.


Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should be performed by individuals who are trained and confident in doing so. If you are not trained in this technique, you can still provide valuable help through hands-only CPR (high quality chest compressions without mouth to mouth breaths) until professional medical assistance is available. Proper CPR training equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to respond effectively during emergencies, improving the chances of saving a life.

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Blood Pressure Chart by Age

Age Group
Min Systolic/Diastolic
Normal Range
Max Systolic/Diastolic
1-12 months
Consult pediatrician if outside normal range. Cuff sizing is critical.
1-5 years
High BP in children may indicate underlying condition. Lifestyle factors.
6-13 years
Obesity, family history increase risk. Promote healthy habits early.
14-19 years
Adolescent rise normal. Rule out secondary causes if elevated.
20-24 years
Stressors, medications may impact. Start monitoring if high-normal.
25-29 years
Dietary changes, exercise for elevated readings. Birth control effects.
30-39 years
110/77 - 111/78
122/81 - 123/82
134/85 - 135/86
Monitor closely if readings increasing with age.
40-49 years
112/79 - 115/80
125/83 - 127/84
137/87 - 139/88
Lifestyle changes proven to reduce hypertension risk.
50-64 years
116/81 - 121/83
129/85 - 134/87
142/89 - 147/91
White coat effect common. Home monitoring advised.
65+ years
130+ Systolic Risk
Frailty, medications, conditions factored in management.

Post-Resuscitation Care

After successful mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the person has started breathing again, it is crucial to provide appropriate post-resuscitation care and monitor their condition closely. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Call for Medical Assistaance: Even if the person has started breathing, it is essential to call for emergency medical assistance immediately. Professional medical evaluation is necessary to determine the underlying cause of respiratory distress and ensure appropriate medical care.
  2. Keep the Person Calm and Comfortable: Offer reassurance to the person and keep them calm and comfortable. Provide a safe and supportive environment while waiting for medical help.
  3. Share Information with Medical Personnel: When medical help arrives, be prepared to provide information about what happened leading up to the incident, the actions taken during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and any other relevant details. This information will aid medical personnel in providing appropriate care.
  4. Continue Monitoring Vital Signs: After medical professionals take over, they will continue to monitor the person's vital signs, including heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation. This ongoing monitoring is essential to accurately assess the person's condition and provide appropriate treatment.
  5. Offer Support: If the person is conscious and able to communicate, be supportive and empathetic. Experiencing a medical emergency can be distressing, and your emotional support can make a difference.
  6. Follow Medical Advice: The medical team will provide further instructions for the person's care and recovery after initial treatment and evaluation. It is crucial to follow their advice and recommendations diligently.
  7. Follow-Up Care: After the incident, the person should seek follow-up care with their healthcare provider. Even if the immediate crisis is resolved, addressing any underlying health issues or potential risks is essential to prevent future emergencies.

Is Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation effective?

Yes. Mouth to mouth resuscitation is an effective way to save lives. However, the effectiveness of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation varies depending on several factors, including the underlying cause of the respiratory failure, the promptness of intervention, and the skill of the person performing the rescue breaths. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is an essential component of CPR) but its effectiveness can be influenced by the following considerations:

  • Timeliness of intervention: The sooner mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is initiated after a person has stopped breathing, the better the chances of success. Immediate intervention helps to maintain oxygen supply to vital organs and tissues, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
  • Proper technique: Effective rescue breathing requires proper technique. The rescuer must ensure a proper seal over the person's mouth, deliver breaths with sufficient volume, and allow for adequate chest rise between breaths. Proper training in CPR is crucial for ensuring the correct application of rescue breathing.
  • Underlying cause: The effectiveness of rescue breathing is influenced by the underlying cause of respiratory failure. If the cause is related to a reversible condition, such as drowning or drug overdose, prompt and effective mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can significantly improve outcomes.
  • Adjunctive measures: Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is often combined with chest compressions in CPR. The combination of rescue breaths and chest compressions helps maintain blood circulation and oxygenation of vital organs.


What are the Alternatives for Mouth to Mouth Rescue Breathing?

Alternatives to traditional mouth-to-mouth ventilation, such as hands-only CPR, have gained popularity due to their simplicity and effectiveness in specific emergencies. These alternatives can be particularly valuable when the rescuer is untrained or uncomfortable performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Hands-only CPR is appropriate in the following situations:

  • Cardiac Arrest: In cases of sudden cardiac arrest, where the person collapses and is unresponsive, hands-only CPR can be very effective. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends hands-only CPR for adult victims who have collapsed due to cardiac arrest and for whom the rescuer is unsure about performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Untrained Rescuers: Hands-only CPR is easy to learn and perform, making it suitable for untrained individuals who may not be familiar with the mouth-to-mouth technique.
  • Potential Risk of Infection: In situations where the rescuer is concerned about infection transmission, such as when the victim's health status is unknown or during the COVID-19 pandemic, hands-only CPR offers a lower risk of direct contact.

The  recent CPR guidelines for adults have shifted toward emphasizing hands-only CPR, especially in cases of sudden cardiac arrest. Hands-only CPR involves chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth ventilation. This change is based on evidence showing that continuous chest compressions alone can be effective in providing oxygen to the body and maintaining blood circulation. For infants and children, however, CPR guidelines typically recommend a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths.


Use of Barrier Devices

Barrier devices are valuable tools in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, providing a protective barrier against infection transmission. They are beneficial for untrained rescuers or in situations with potential infection risk. However, proper CPR and first aid training remain essential to ensure that rescuers can respond effectively and appropriately in emergencies.


How does the use of a bag-valve mask differ from direct mouth-to-mouth breathing?

Using a bag-valve-mask (BVM) differs significantly from direct mouth-to-mouth breathing (rescue breaths) in both technique and effectiveness. A BVM is a manual resuscitator device trained medical professionals use to provide artificial ventilation to patients who are not breathing or cannot breathe adequately.

When using a bvm mask, it is crucial to create a tight seal by placing the mask over the patient's nose and mouth and using the "thumb-and-finger" technique to ensure adequate ventilation. Proper training and practice are essential to use a BVM effectively and achieve a secure seal during resuscitation.


Can mouth-to-mouth resuscitation be used on a pet like a dog or cat?

Yes, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can be used in Pet CPR, including dogs and cats, in emergencies when they have stopped breathing or are experiencing respiratory distress. Just like in humans, providing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to pets can be lifesaving when performed correctly and promptly.


Safety Considerations when giving Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation

  1. Infection Risk: There is a potential risk of transmitting infections through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. However, the risk is generally considered low. To minimize this risk, rescuers are encouraged to use protective barriers such as face shields or pocket masks when providing rescue breaths.
  2. Ensuring an Open Airway: Proper head tilt and chin lift techniques should be employed to open the airway before delivering rescue breaths. Ensuring a clear airway is crucial to the effectiveness of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  3. Adequate Chest Recoil: During chest compressions, allowing for full chest recoil between compressions is important. Inadequate chest recoil can compromise blood circulation and decrease the effectiveness of the overall resuscitation effort.
  4. Appropriate Compression Depth: When combined with chest compressions, rescue breaths should be delivered with sufficient volume to cause visible chest rise. Adequate compression depth and proper ventilation are critical for effective CPR.
  5. Monitoring for Signs of Recovery: Rescuers should continually assess the person for signs of recovery. If the person begins breathing on their own or shows signs of life, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may no longer be necessary.

Common Misconceptions About  Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation

  1. Overemphasis on Mouth-to-Mouth: In recent years, there has been a shift in CPR guidelines for laypersons, placing greater emphasis on high-quality chest compressions. For adults in certain situations, hands-only CPR (chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth ventilation) may be recommended.
  2. Inability to Deliver Adequate Ventilation: Some people may worry that they cannot provide adequate ventilation during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Training in CPR techniques helps individuals develop the skills and confidence needed to deliver effective rescue breaths.
  3. Fear of Causing Harm: Rescuers may fear causing harm, such as breaking ribs during chest compressions. However, the potential benefits of CPR, especially in life-threatening situations, far outweigh the risks.
  4. Duration of Rescue Breaths: There may be a misconception about the duration of rescue breaths. Effective rescue breaths involve delivering enough air to cause visible chest rise but should not be excessively prolonged.
  5. Delay in Starting CPR: Waiting for professional help to arrive before initiating CPR can be a misconception. Early intervention is critical, and bystanders should start CPR as soon as possible in case of cardiac arrest or respiratory distress.

Emergency Medical Response and CPR Training

Emergency medical response, including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as part of CPR, is critical in the Chain of Survival. The percentage of cardiac arrest victims receiving bystander CPR, including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, varies depending on the region, community awareness, and the availability of trained individuals. However, studies have shown that bystander CPR rates have been historically low in many parts of the world.

According to the American Heart Association study on the Reappraisal of Mouth-to-Mouth Ventilation During Bystander-Initiated Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, even though CPR has been promoted for many years, many people who need it don't get it. One reason is that some people hesitate to do mouth-to-mouth breathing during CPR. This makes it less likely for bystanders to do CPR. In some areas, bystander CPR rates have been reported to be as low as 30% or even lower.

Proper CPR training and certification prepare individuals to respond effectively during emergencies, making them invaluable assets in saving lives and improving community resilience. By empowering more people with CPR skills, we can create a safer and more prepared society to respond to medical emergencies.