Diagnosing and Treating Asphyxia and Hypoxia

Your brain is heavily dependent on oxygen supply to perform essential body functions. Without a sufficient supply of oxygen, your brain ceases to function correctly. If oxygen deprivation continues, it can result in permanent brain damage or even death.

Two common causes of inadequate oxygen supply to the brain are Hypoxia and Asphyxia. Let us learn more about these two conditions, along with their diagnoses and treatment.

Diagnosing and treating asphyxia and hypoxia
Braing surgery treating asphyxia and hypoxia

What Is Asphyxia?

Multi-etiologic set of illnesses or injuries that cause inadequate uptake, delivery, or utilization of oxygen by your body is defined as Asphyxia.

In addition, there is a constriction and obstruction in your airway canal, which results in oxygen deficiency as well. This condition is usually accompanied by carbon dioxide retention.

What Is Hypoxia?

An insufficient concentration of oxygen in your blood is called Hypoxia. It is a medical condition where your body tissues and blood do not receive adequate oxygen, which ultimately results in the impairment of your metabolic activities.

This is why Hypoxia causes several associated signs and symptoms such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, myocardial contractility, bluish discoloration of mucous membranes, etc.

The Difference between Asphyxia and Hypoxia

An insufficient oxygen supply to your tissues and cells is termed Asphyxia or Hypoxia. However, these are two different conditions, and it can be challenging to identify the differences between the two physiological terms.

But, there are some primary differences in the fundamental mechanism of the two conditions—for example, Asphyxia results from an injury or an obstruction of airway canals.

In contrast, Hypoxia is caused by an inadequate amount of oxygen uptake or oxygen delivery to the body’s tissues.

So Asphyxia is oxygen deprivation at the tissue levels caused by an injury or obstruction of the airway passages. For example, strangulation, choking, and drowning can result in Asphyxia.

In contrast, Hypoxia is a condition where the reduced partial pressure of oxygen due to some illness or tissue’s inability to transport oxygen results in various signs and symptoms efficiently.

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Asphyxia and Hypoxia are diagnosed and treated in the same manner. The healthcare professionals ensure airway breathing and circulation.

They address the individual causative agents. However, the symptoms of the two conditions differ.

Symptoms of Asphyxia

Here are the symptoms of Asphyxia.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hoarseness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Visual changes
  • Hearing loss
Diagnosing and treating asphyxia and hypoxia
Brain damage from asphyxia and hypoxia

Besides these symptoms, some complications can result in face cyanosis, convulsions, swollen veins on the neck, irreversible coma, and brain death. Low oxygen levels in the blood may also cause blue lips and skin discoloration in adults.

Symptoms in a newborn baby include low heart rate, pale skin, weak breathing, acidosis, weak reflexes, meconium-stained amniotic fluid, or organ damage.

Symptoms of Hypoxia

The symptoms of Hypoxia differ from Asphyxia. For example, oxygen deprivation in patients results in their inability to talk. Since infants cannot understand Hypoxia signs, it is crucial for adults to recognize these symptoms.

  • Struggle to breathe
  • Difficulty in catching breath
  • Rapid heart rate

You should look out for the symptoms of oxygen deprivation as well. These include the following.

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Blue lips and tongue
  • Tingling sensations
  • Pupils not responding well to light
  • Hyperventilation
  • Gasping for air

Asphyxia | Treatment & Prevention 

Asphyxia may be induced by electric shock, choking, toxic gas inhalation, or drowning. As there are different causes of asphyxiation, the treatment varies according to the causative agents.

Some treatments include CPR, which is cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and oxygen therapy. For example, if a patient loses consciousness due to asphyxiation, their heart could stop beating. In this case, treatment provides immediate CPR to help with oxygen supply to the lungs and heart.

During oxygen therapy, the patient must wear a mask over their nose or mouth. Sometimes, a tube is inserted into the nose. This tube or mask has to get attached to an oxygen cylinder to provide sufficient oxygen to the body.


There are specific techniques for the prevention of Asphyxia. Since Asphyxia is the result of airway obstruction, you should use prevention techniques depending on the condition’s cause.

Here are several ways to prevent Asphyxia.

  • Avoid putting non-edible objects into your mouth.
  • Break down food into small pieces, so it doesn’t choke you.
  • Keep small objects out of reach of children.
  • Avoid unfamiliar waters to prevent asphyxiation from drowning.
  • Avoid things that may trigger an allergic response, such as anaphylaxis.

Hypoxia | Treatment & Prevention

Diagnosing and treating asphyxia and hypoxia
Brain impacted by asphyxia and hypoxia

Unlike Asphyxia, you should seek immediate medical attention for Hypoxia because treating Hypoxia at home is risky, so you must visit an emergency ward.

However, you can use the Dobkin Technique to slow down and prevent brain damage caused by insufficient oxygen supply.

For Dobkin’s Technique, you should use ice-cold water or cold compresses on the patient’s face and eyes. Make sure that the cold compress is below 58 degrees.

It must remain on the patient’s face until medical help arrives. For the immediate aftermath of Hypoxia, healthcare professionals will focus on providing oxygen.

They will also immediately inspect the patient to address the cause. For example, a patient experiencing Hypoxia because of a stroke will need surgery or medication that clears blood vessel blockage.


Certain trigger factors can result in an inadequate supply of oxygen to the body. For example, asthmatic patients require medication to treat breathing problems resulting in Hypoxia.

Here are some prevention methods.

  • Maintain your physical health
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep your breathing issues under control by using medicines.
  • Seek treatment for underlying health conditions such as lung disease, anemia, cardiac diseases.

Final Words

Now that we have learned that obstruction in ventilation and inadequate oxygen supply to the body can cause various health problems and lead to death, it is vital for you to look out for the symptoms of oxygen deprivation.

Hypoxia is also a common condition in infants, so remember to look out for the symptoms and causes in babies.

In case of injuries, always make sure that the tissues take up sufficient oxygen to prevent brain damage. For this reason, oxygen cylinders and masks are of utmost importance. If you experience any of the symptoms, it is crucial for you to seek immediate medical attention.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of its contributing author. The content is provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always confirm any information obtained this web site, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment, with your physician. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU READ ON THIS OR ANY OTHER WEB SITE.

Nurse Joanne

Medical Authority