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Gasping Pronunciation: ˈgas-piŋ

Definition: Gasping is a type of irregular breathing characterized by quick, short breaths, often accompanied by an open-mouthed expression. It is a common symptom of severe cardiac emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, when the heart fails to effectively pump blood to the body. In these situations, gasping is an indication of inadequate oxygen supply and is a sign that immediate medical help and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are needed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gasping

What is agonal gasping?

Agonal gasping is a specific type of gasping often seen in cardiac arrest victims. It is an automatic reflex and can occur even though there is no effective heartbeat. Agonal gasps are not normal breaths and are not sufficient to provide oxygen to the body. They can be misleading because a bystander might think the person is breathing normally when, in fact, they are in cardiac arrest and require immediate CPR.

What should I do if someone is gasping?

If you find someone who is unresponsive and gasping, it’s critical to act fast. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, start performing chest compressions, and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available. Do not delay or wait for the gasping to stop. Even if the individual appears to be breathing, if they are unresponsive and not breathing normally, start CPR immediately.

Is gasping a sign of heart attack?

While gasping is not a typical sign of a heart attack, it can occur if the heart attack leads to a cardiac arrest. More common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, and other signs such as discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, and feeling faint or nauseous. However, if someone is gasping and unresponsive, this is a sign of a cardiac emergency, and immediate medical help is needed.