what is gasping

Gasping (agonal breathing) can occur during cardiac arrest and is a reflex of the body when oxygen levels in the brain are low. In this blog, we will tell you exactly what gasping or agonal breathing is and how to recognise it.

Gasping can occur during circulatory arrest due to a lack of oxygen in the brain. In response, your body does a final breathing reflex, so to speak. This manifests as a loud gasping sound and/or irregular "breathing" (note that gasping is not effective breathing!). It is reminiscent of a fish on dry land gasping for breath. Besides the noisy breathing, the skin of the face may turn blue. Due to lack of oxygen, the body may move in the form of convulsions.

What to do in case of gasping?

In case of gasping, also known as agonal breathing, it is important to call 999 immediately, start CPR and connect an AED. You follow the same guidelines as in the case of no breaths. Confusion often arises among bystanders in the case of gasping; "is the person breathing or not?". It is important to recognise the characteristics, conclude that it is not normal breathing and take immediate action. By starting CPR as soon as possible, you increase the victim's chance of survival.

How long does gasping last?

Gasping often lasts 30 seconds to a minute, but in some cases can last even longer. Do not hesitate, call 999 and start CPR immediately. This is because even during gasping, you should start CPR immediately.

Is gasping normal breathing?

We cannot repeat it often enough: gasping (agonal breathing) is not normal breathing! It is a reflex of the body similar to gasping for breath. There is still circulatory arrest.