Recognise a life-threatening condition

How To Recognise Hypoxia

The medical term ‘hypoxia’ means ‘ Iow oxygen in the blood’.

A low level of oxygen in the blood is potentially fatal, so it is very important that the First Aider recognizes the signs and symptoms of this condition and takes immediate action to treat the casualty.

Unconsciousness 8

The causes of hypoxia can be separated into 5 areas:

External causes:
Not enough oxygen in the surrounding air, such as:

  • Suffocation by gas or smoke.
  • Suffocation by sand, earth or a pillow etc.
  • Drowning.
  • High altitude.

Airway causes

Blockage, swelling or narrowing. Caused by:

  • The tongue.
  • Strangulation.
  • Vomit.
  • Hanging.
  • Choking.
  • Anaphylaxis.
  • Burns.

Breathing causes

The inability of the lungs to function properly. Caused by:

  • Crushing of the chest
  • Poisoning.
  • Collapsed lung
  • Asthma.
  • Chest injury
  • Disease or illness.

Circulation causes

Inability of the blood to take up oxygen, a fall in blood pressure, or failure to circulate the
blood around the body. Caused by:

  • Heart attack
  • Severe bleeding.
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Poisoning.
  • Angina
  • Anaemia

Control centre causes

Failure of the respiratory control centre in the brain or the nerves connecting it to the lungs.
Caused by:

  • Stroke
  • Poisoning.
  • Head injury
  • Spinal injury
  • Drug overdose
  • Electric shock

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxia

  • Pale clammy skin (for dark skinned casualties look at the colour of the skin inside of the lips).
  • Blue tinges tot eh skin and lips (Cyonosis).
  • Increase in pulse rate.
  • Weakening of the pulse.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Increased breathing rate (caused by oxygen deficiency).
  • Lowered breathing rate (caused by oxygen deficiency).
  • Distressed breathing or gasping.
  • Confusion or dizziness.
  • Lowering levels of consciousness.
  • Clues from the cause of the hypoxia (bleeding, injury or chest pain).

The body’s response to Hypoxia

If the body detects low levels of oxygen in the blood ADRENALINE is released. The effect of adrenaline on the body is to:

  • Increase the heart rate.
  • Increase the strength of the heart beat (and blood pressure).
  • Divert blood away from the skin, intestines and stomach.
  • Divert blood towards the heart, lungs and brain.
  • Dilate the air passages in the lungs (bronchioles).
Recognise a life-threatening condition

Book Your First Aid Training

These lessons and information do not replace actual attendance on a first aid course, getting hands on practice with your first aid skills is the best way to ensure you are a competant and capable first aider.

If you would like to book a first aid course or if you have a question for us please call 0191 7166601, email or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will get back to you shortly.

We provide workplace onsite training for Emergency First Aid, First Aid at Work and Paediatric First Aid but a range of other First Aid Courses across the North East, our first aid training centre is based in South Shields

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