My kids asked what is oxygen? They corrected me upon answering that we breathe in oxygen from the atmosphere. The air we breathe contains roughly 21% oxygen, 78% Nitrogen and .96% Argon. We exhale approximately 13% Oxygen and 5.3% Carbon Dioxide along with Nitrogen and Argon. My answer lead us down a rabbit hole. For most, breathing is not something we think about; “it’s autonomic” and taken for granted.
During an emergency some people need extra oxygen. A part of CPR training is learning to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. At least one participant in my class will ask, “Why do we breathe into someone who needs oxygen if what we exhale is Carbon Dioxide (CO2)?” Know the answer? (more oxygen is exhaled, 16%, than CO2)
Not a week passes where I am told of people finding themselves at a loss…for action. They are either fearful to act or unsure of the necessary steps in saving a life. Recent stories from mothers or babysitters who frantically pulled their car over to save their child from choking. One piece of hard candy was the culprit! Without skills, a loved ones life is forefront. “Three minutes without oxygen can lead to brain damage” (Web MD. 2013).
Anoxia vs Hypoxia
Hypoxia is a better-known term than anoxia. Hypoxia refers to someone with low oxygen levels in their blood/tissues. To determine if hypoxia is present, your health care professional would use a pulse oximeter. A device placed on one’s finger to determine the percentage of oxygen delivered through the body (96-100% is “normal”). There are varying types of hypoxia depending upon the affected region.
Anemic Hypoxia is a reduction of oxygen in the blood. This alters one’s hemoglobin level (a molecule in red blood cells. carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues, back to the lungs).
Histotoxic Hypoxia is when the tissues in the body are not receiving sufficient oxygen.
Hypoxic Hypoxia occurs when insufficient oxygen reaches the bloodstream.
Stagnant Hypoxia equals inadequate blood flow due to the body unable to transport sufficient oxygen.
Anoxia is complete depletion in the level of oxygen. A harsh example would be suffocation in a poorly ventilated space. There are other types and anoxia can be concurrent with hypoxia. Traumatic brain injury, stroke, drug overdose or heart attack can lead to either hypoxia and/or anoxia.
As you can tell, oxygen is a crucial element. So, why the need to discuss what we already know? Whether flying, traveling to higher altitudes or simply having or knowing someone with compromised oxygen intake, you need to know WHAT TO DO!
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