Observing the airway

You can tell a lot about an airway by looking and listening. If the casualty is speaking normally to you, then they have a good (patent) open airway and you can safely move on to B - Breathing. If they are not talking, however, listening to the noises coming from their mouth can be useful.

Noise Interpretation
Normal quiet breathing Airway is “open”
Gurgling Partially obstructed by liquid, e.g. blood or vomit
Snoring Partially obstructed by soft tissues that block the airway
High pitched wheezing on breathing in (called ‘stridor’) Partially obstructed by inhaled foreign body, e.g. tooth, chewing gum or injury to airway/ larynx
No noise Completely obstructed airway or is not breathing. Move on to opening the airway

Airway noises and their meanings



Dr Andrew Smith demonstrates the importance of establishing a clear airway