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CPR – Opening the Airway

ABC’s of Life

Airway Breathing Circulation

A = Airway, B = Breathing, C = Circulation


Airway: When a person becomes unconscious, they loose all muscle tone. The tongue being a muscle relaxes and may block the airway (trachea/windpipe) of the victim. The tongue is the most common cause of airway obstruction in an unconscious adult. To mitigate this and reopen the victims airway, we must perform a physical intervention to lift and move the tongue out of the way. The maneuver used to open a victims airway is called a head tilt/chin lift.

With the victim laying face up on a hard firm surface place one hand on the forehead of the victim while grasping the bony portion of the chin with the other. Tilt the head and lift the chin at the same time. This lifts the tongue and creates a pocket for oxygen to travel.

Opening the Airway

When you open the victims airway you may hear sounds of oxygen or gasses escaping and/or may see fluid, vomit, or froth escape from the victims mouth. Anything blocked from the tongue in the trachea will potentially escape when the airway is opened. Do not confuse this with breathing or stop CPR if this occurs.

Next: Breathing (Assessment & Rescue Breathing)

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2 Comments on “CPR – Opening the Airway”

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  1. CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) Guide at First Aid: Online First Aid and CPR Information by First Aid Reference – First Aid Guide says:

    [...] Size Up / Ensure Personal Safety Assess Victim (Tap and Shout) Call 911 / Get Additional Resources Airway: Open the Victims Airway Breathing: Assess / Provide Breathing Breathing: Mouth to Mouth Breathing: Mouth to Mask [...]

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