Day-to-Day Care


Observation:  Breathing



A complete breath consists of an inspiration, and expiration, and a pause.  Respiration enables oxygen to be taken into the body and circulated to all tissues through the blood, while carbon dioxide is collected from the tissue and excreted.  The respiration rate is the number of times per minute that the chest rises and falls.
The respiration rate varies between the genders and with age.  In adults, the rate varies from 16 - 20  per minute, slightly faster in women.  The rate may be increased as a result of bronchitis, viral infection, heart disease, shock, exercise and by excitement or emotion.  It is decreased during rest or sleep and when fatigued.  Normal respiration is rhythmical, quiet, regular and comfortable.
A person who is having difficulty breathing may find relief by being turned slightly on their side with their head propped up on pillows.  Sometimes opening a window may also help.  A person with breathing difficulties will always be found sitting up.

Tips on Counting Respiration Rate


It should be noted that the decision to stop inspiring and expiring can be made voluntarily.  We can all breathe more quickly or slowly at will and it is difficult not to alter the rate of breathing when you know that your breathing is being watched. 

It is best to take the breathing rate when you check the pulse so that you can do it unobtrusively, or do it when the person is asleep.

To take the respiration unobtrusively, when you finish taking the pulse, leave your fingers on the person's wrist and raise your eyes so that you can see the chest wall rising and falling.  The person will not be aware that you are counting his respiration rate as he will think you are still counting his pulse rate.

Use a watch and count the rate for a full minute.  One breathe is make up of both 1 inspiration and 1 expiration.

When noting the respiration rate, you should also note its character, particularly its depth and regularity (rhythm), as well as noting the discomfort which may be apparent.


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