Traumatic Asphyxia - Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Asphyxia


Description of Asphyxia

Asphyxia translates literally as an absence of pulse but is used in a wider sense to describe the state of suffocation. During the course of this, breathing and heartbeat cease and oxygen fails to reach the tissues and organs. Brain cells are irreparably damaged if deprived of oxygen for more than about four minutes.

Persons most commonly affected by Asphyxia- all age groups and both sexes.

Organ or part of body involved in Asphyxia - lungs, heart, respiratory and irculatory systems.

Symptoms and indications of Asphyxia

In most cases, the person fights and gasps for breath, has a rapid pulse rate, throbbing in the head as blood pressure rises and blueness of the skin. Eventually, there may be convulsions, followed by a state of paralysis, unconsciousness and death. However, in some instances, where the inhalation of toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide is responsible for the asphyxia, death may occur peacefully, without the struggles described above and during sleep. A person suffering from asphyxia requires urgent, prompt treatment if death is to be avoided.

Treatment of Asphyxia

This depends on the cause of the asphyxia in the first instance. If the cause is choking because of a piece of food, or other foreign body, becoming lodged in the windpipe, this must be removed. A young child can be held upside down by the legs and struck firmly on the back, as this results in the object being dislodged more easily. In adults, blows on the back over the shoulder blades in time with coughing may help the object to be expelled. However, it may be necessary to perform the Heimlich's manoeuvre. The person carrying out the procedure encircles the patient from behind with his or her arms. A fist is made with one hand slightly above the patient's navel and below the ribs. With the free hand, the fist is thrust firmly into the abdomen with a rapid, upward push, which may need to be repeated several times. As a result of this, the foreign body is expelled through or into the patient's mouth. In the situation outlined above, the patient usually recovers rapidly and resumes normal breathing.

If toxic fumes are the cause of asphyxia, the person must be removed into clean air. In all cases of asphyxia, the essential aim of treatment is to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. If respiration and heartbeat have stopped, emergency resuscitation methods (mouth-to-mouth breathing and external cardiac massage) must be used. Once respiration and heartbeat have started (or if still present), the person requires further intensive care treatment in hospital.

Causes and risk factors of Asphyxia

As indicated above, there are a number of different causes of asphyxia, including drowning, strangulation, choking and inhalation of toxic fumes. Also, swelling leading to obstruction of breathing and asphyxia may occur in certain diseases and conditions, including DIPHTHERIA, ASTHMA, CROUP and infection of a wound.


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