cp1 breathing


The process of external respiration (breathing) consists of two stages, namely inspiration, inhaling (breathing in) air in order to extract the oxygen from the air, and expiration, exhaling (breathing out) in order to expel carbon dioxide.

Oxygen is required by the body to release energy at cell level so that the individual can participate in activities. The release of such energy through metabolism produces carbon dioxide as a waste product that must be expelled from the body. The presence of carbon dioxide in the blood plays a key role in maintaining respiratory function and in maintaining homeostasis by regulating the pH of the blood (acid–base balance). A pH value between 7.35 and 7.45 is essential for normal body functioning.

Common terminology associated with the activity of breathing, points to consider when assessing an individual’s breathing, how to monitor respiratory rate and peak flow, airway maintenance, monitoring of expectorant, obtaining specimens and disposing of sputum, administration of oxygen, and rescue breathing.

Aerobic                               With oxygen

Anaerobic                           Without oxygen

Anoxia                                No oxygen reaching the brain

Apnoea                               Absence of breathing

Apnoeustic breathing         Prolonged gasping inspiration and short

                                           inefficient expiration

Asthmatic breathing           Difficulty on expiration with an audible expiratory wheeze.

Biot’s respirations               Periods of hyperpnoea occurring in normal respiration.

Bradypnoea                         Slow but regular breathing.

Cheyne-Stokes respir.         Gradual cycle of increased rate and depth followed by                                                     gradual decrease with the pattern repeating every 45                                                    seconds to three minutes. Also associated with periods of                                              apnoea, particularly in the dying.

Cyanosis                             A bluish appearance of the skin and mucous membranes                                                caused by inadequate oxygenation

Dyspnoea                           Difficulty breathing

Expiration                          The act of breathing out     

Haemoptysis                      Blood in the sputum   

Homeostasis                      The automatic self-regulation of man to maintain the                                                     normal state of the body under a variety of environmental                                             conditions         

Hypercapnia                      High partial pressure of carbon dioxide 

Hyperpnoea                       Deep breathing with marked use of abdominal muscles 


Hyperventilation               Increased rate and depth of breathing

Hypoventilation                Irregular, slow, shallow breathing

Hypoxia                            A lack of oxygen concentration

Hypoxaemia                     A lack of oxygen in the blood

Inspiration                       The act of breathing in

Kussmaul’s respir.            Increased respiratory rate (above 20 rpm)

Orthopnoea                     The ability to breath easily only when in an upright position

Perfusion                         The flow of oxygenated blood to the tissues

Stridor                             A harsh, vibrating, shrill sound produced during respiration.                                           Usually indicates an obstruction

Tachypnoea                     Increased rate of breathing

Tracheostomy                 Making of an opening into the trachea or windpipe

Ventilation                      The movement of air in and out of the lungs

Remember that assessment of breathing is only part of a holistic nursing assessment and should not be undertaken in isolation without reference to or consideration of the client’s other activities of living.

The specific points to be considered when assessing an individual’s

breathing include:

  • Respiratory rate ~ atti respiratori
    • depth ~ profondita`
    • sounds ~ suono
    • pattern/rhythm ~ tipologia/ritmo
  • Presence of cough ~ presenza di tosse
    • productive ~ produttiva 
    • unproductive ~ non produttiva
  • Sputum ~ Espettorato
    • colour ~ colore
    • consistency ~ consistenza
    • amount ~ quantita`
    • smell ~ odore