Basic First Aid for Hyperventilation, Drowning and Shock


Hyperventilation is when the breathing speeds up abnormally due to stress or mental tension. Hyperventilation leads to an imbalance between oxygen and carbonic acid in the body and requires the intervention of a doctor. Some serious diseases can also cause shortness of breath. It is therefore advisable if you suspect hyperventilation to always seek medical advice.

Basic First Aid for Hyperventilation, Drowning and Shock

• feeling of suffocation
• astringent sensation in the chest
• intense fear or anxiety
• feeling of tingling sensation or numbness of the fingers and or toes
• dizziness or inability to move

What to watch for
• confusion
• rapid breathing
• contraction of the fingers in the palm due to spasm

What to do
Calm down the victim and tell him to breathe. Help him to slow down the frequency of breathing by counting slowly and aloud.

Have the victim inhale and exhale in a plastic bag until the breathing normalizes.

Call the emergency if the breathing doesn’t calm.


Drowning is a rare cause of accident and subsequent death. Rapid assistance can save lives. Removal of the drowning person from the water is the first step.

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What to watch for
• a person who can barely stay afloat on water
• a child who dives into the water upside down
• Once the victim is removed from the water check if his skin is bluish or pale with spots; is breathing or not breathing; is the victim contactable

What to do
Remove the victim as quickly as possible from the water.

Immediately call the emergency!

Do not waste time pumping water from the lungs. Water doesn’t enter fast in the body, nor can be removed quickly.

Check if the person is conscious, his breathing and take appropriate measures – turn him on one side or give him a CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

If the person is unconscious, turn him on one side to release the airways. Leave the mouth so the saliva, vomit or water spontaneously flow out. He must remain lying on one side even after coming back to consciousness.

Until the arrival of the rescue team periodically check whether the person is conscious, his breathing and pulse.

Cover the victim with a blanket to warm up.

Even after the victim recovers he must go for a medical examination in order to avoid later complications.


Shock can occur under extreme mental stress (eg. car crash), excessive blood loss, but also after a sudden illness. It is due to a natural reaction of the body in a life-threatening situation: in a state of shock, oxygen supply goes only to the vital organs. The victim becomes pale and his skin becomes clammy.

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• weakness and dizziness
• weak, rapid or slow pulse
• pain (depending on the situation)

What to watch for
• pale, clammy skin
• rapid, shallow breathing
• weak, rapid pulse

What to do
Help the victim to sit down. Relax constraining clothing around the neck and waist.

Immediately call the emergency. Do not give him anything to eat or drink.

Raise his legs to about a foot by placing them over an appropriate thing you have at hand.

Cover the victim with something warm and take care of him until the arrival of the emergency.

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