Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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In the critical moment when you need to administer rescue breathing, there is not a second to spare. In every first aid kit, there needs to be a clearly marked, easily available rescue breathing kit, consisting of at least an intraoral "mask" to allow rescue breathing. The best of these allow air to flow in one direction only - into the victim - in order to prevent the victim's secretions (saliva, vomit, etc.) to travel back into the rescuer's mouth.

I was recently introduced to a new product that looks like it will have great utility "in the field," and certainly in the outdoor setting. NuMask is a novel intraoral mask composed of a cylinder through which breathing occurs and a flanged mouthpiece that slides easily into the victim's mouth between the gums and the cheeks, where it can be held in place by a single rescuer. The latex-free device comes in a configuration with a one-way valve for breaths administered from a rescuer's mouth, as well as a configuration that is two-way to allow placement of a bag-valve apparatus for medical rescuers such as EMTs or paramedics. Depending on the packaging, it may be paired with an alcohol swab and protective gloves (NuMask CPR Kit), or with an oral airway (adult or pediatric size for both the mask and oral [oropharyngeal] airway). The oral airway is used to maintain an open airway by controlling the tongue in an unconscious person who does not have a "gag reflex," which would otherwise cause him or her to vomit.

The NuMask was selected as a "hot product" in 2007 at the EMS Today conference, and I certainly agree. For medical professionals, it is available in a bag valve resuscitator kit, as part of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)/BiPAP kit, and as a component of a nebulizer kit.

For the layperson, a barrier breathing assist device is essential. NuMask is an easily understood and useful device that should be welcome in any first aid kit if there is a chance that someone will need to assist with rescue breathing.

Preview the 17th Annual WMS Winter Meeting, "Wilderness & Mountain Medicine," which will be held at The Canyons in Park City, Utah, February 20-25, 2009.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.