Understanding Respiratory Emergencies: Common Causes and Symptoms

Jun 18, 2024

A respiratory emergency can be a life-threatening situation where an individual struggles to maintain necessary oxygen levels or effectively remove carbon dioxide, as a result of various causes. Recognising the signs someone may be experiencing respiratory distress such as difficulty breathing is crucial for timely intervention, where having the right equipment could save lives.


What is a respiratory emergency?

A respiratory emergency happens when the body is unable to get enough oxygen into the blood or remove carbon dioxide from it. This condition is often referred to as “acute hypoxemic respiratory failure (AHRF)”. There are many reasons why a respiratory emergency could take place, including;

  • Chest, spinal cord or brain injuries.
  • Drug use of excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Various lung conditions and diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary embolism.
  • Blockages, scarring or fluid in the lungs.
  • Smoking or exposure to other irritants such as fumes, dust, air pollution or asbestos.


What are the signs someone may be experiencing a respiratory emergency?

Difficulty breathing

Someone who is having difficulty breathing will show signs that they are having to work harder to gain the required oxygen intake. Examples include an increase in the number of breaths per minute or showing signs such as being lightheaded, pale-skinned or showing blueish colouring around the mouth area.

High-pitched wheezing

If someone is working harder to breathe, they may display a tight, whistling or musical sound with each breath. This could indicate that their air passages may be restricted, making it more challenging to breathe.


If someone is unable to speak, breathe, or cough, they could be choking due to a blockage in their airways. In these instances, it is medically advised to perform the Heimlich maneuver or seek immediate medical assistance.

Verbal issues

Someone experiencing difficulty breathing may struggle to talk because they are exerting significant effort just to breathe. For instance, they might need to pause frequently, even after just a few words, to catch their breath.

Body position

If someone adjusts their body position to lean more forward whilst sitting or standing to help take deeper breaths, it could be a warning sign that someone is about to collapse.


Understanding portable suction units for treating respiratory emergencies

Suction machines, also known as aspirators, are essential medical devices used to clear obstructions from the airway, such as mucus, saliva, blood, or other secretions. They are particularly crucial during emergencies when a patient is seizing or unconscious and is unable to clear their own airway. By effectively removing these obstructions, suction machines play a vital role in ensuring that a patient’s airway remains open, making them a critical component of emergency treatment plans.


Introducing TVAC – unique to TyTek Medical

TyTek Medical’s portable, disposable suction unit is designed to address respiratory emergencies in the most challenging environments. Its innovative design is inexpensive and requires no electricity, making it ideal for off-the-grid situations as well as consistently delivering full suction power. The lightweight, compact packaging ensures easy transport and quick deployment—simply pull out the built-in tube and start suctioning.

After use, place the entire TVAC Manual Suction Unit back into its packaging, seal it, expose the biohazard label, and dispose of it properly, eliminating the risk of cross-contamination.

Find out more about TVAC and its use in respiratory emergencies

Find out more about TyTek Medical and TVAC – Download the brochure here.




Being able to effectively identify the signs of a respiratory emergency and their various causes, can help to ensure timely and effective intervention. Tools like portable suction units are invaluable in managing such emergencies, particularly in challenging environments. TyTek Medical’s TVAC is an excellent example of an innovative, portable solution designed to provide effective suction without the need for electricity. By being prepared and having the right equipment on hand, we can better protect individuals facing respiratory emergencies and improve their chances of recovery.


Helpful resources

Essential life-saving medical supplies for your inventory that you may not have heard of:

Whether at home, workplaces, places of worship, or during travel, having the right medical supplies can make a significant difference in emergencies. Read more here.