BVM or Bag-valve Mask: What is it and how do you use it?

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What is a Bag Valve Mask?

This mask is used to force oxygen into a patient that is not breathing. It is very important to have the patient lying on their back and for the responder to tilt the patients head back to ensure a clear passage to the lungs.  A Bag valve mask is an example of an advanced piece of equipment, but you can get the training to use one right here.  In this blog I will outline the DO’s and the DONT’S of using this equipment.  This is not to say that by reading this article that you can use this equipment as it does take further training because first aid must be learnt hands on.

What About Non Rebreather Masks?

CPR Bag-Valve Mask
A common bag valve mask

Now, how do you use this thing and why not use a regular mask like a non rebreather or NRB.  Well, NRB masks are great for patients that can breathe on their own but would benefit from pure O2, this would be the case for someone who has recently been exposed to smoke inhalation but can still adequately breathe on their own.  Ideally the O2 would be humidified for this case but non humidified O2 would do the job sufficiently.  A BVM on the other hand is used when the patient cannot get enough oxygen on their own and can be used on people that are breathing but they are breathing irregularly. These are very difficult to use on patients that are breathing because you will have to match their breath rate by squeezing and releasing the bag appropriately, if you do not do this you will be forcing air into their stomachs which may cause them to vomit (this is a DON’T).

Important Tips for Using a BVM

The most important thing about a BVM is that you must maintain a good seal over a patient’s mouth and nose, otherwise you will lose much of the oxygen you are trying to deliver to the patient and thus compromise the quality of first aid being delivered.  This equipment takes two people to use effectively, one person must maintain the seal over the patients mouth and nose while the other must squeeze the bag in order to push the O2 into the patient.  It is possible to use this equipment by yourself in an EMERGENCY situation but the quality of first aid will be greatly diminished. Always remember that the responder must use his or her training to the best of their ability to preserve life and not to go above their certification.  Once you reach the level of HCP then you will get to use equipment like this but if do not have this level of training, then please do not use equipment that you have not been trained on.

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