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How Do I Assess a Patient's Breathing Rate and Quality - Taking Vital Signs

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(3)
Character. Sputum may be watery, semi-liquid, viscous, or frothy.
(a)
Watery. Watery sputum is thin and usually colorless.
(b)
Viscous. Viscous sputum is very thick, firm, and stays together.
(c)  Semi-liquid. The normal thickness of sputum is semi-liquid. It is
thicker than watery sputum but not as thick as viscous sputum.
(d) Frothy. Frothy sputum is foam-like and contains many small air
bubbles.
(4)  Odor. Normal sputum has little or no odor. Abnormal sputum may have
a sweaty smell or a foul and offensive smell.
4-5.
HOW DO I ASSESS A PATIENT'S BREATHING RATE AND QUALITY?
You normally assess the patient's breathing when you are taking his pulse. Take
his pulse in such a manner that you do not need to move in order to observe his
breathing also. The best position is the position shown in figure 3-3 A. If you are not to
take his pulse also, observe his breathing when he is at rest (usually lying down) and
not aware that you are observing his breathing.
a. Counting Breaths. When you finish counting the patient's pulse rate, count
the patient's breaths (the rising and falling of his chest) before recording his pulse rate.
Continue to hold his wrist as though you were still counting his pulse rate.
(1)  Count the number of complete breaths (the sequence of inhalation and
exhalation is one breath) that occur during a 60-second period.
(2)  After you have practice, you can count the number of breaths that occur
during 30 seconds and multiply that number by two. This procedure, however, can only
be used if the patient's breathing is regular. If his breathing is irregular, count for the full
60 seconds.
b. Note Abnormalities. As you count the patient's breaths, look and listen for
abnormalities (rapid or slow breathing, shallow or deep breathing, irregular breathing,
noises, indications of pain, coughing, and so forth).
c. Record Breathing Rate and Quality. Record the number of complete
breathing cycles per minute on your form or sheet of paper. The number can be either
even or odd. Suppose your 60-second period began as the patient started to inhale.
Also suppose that he had 15 complete breaths plus one full inhalation (no exhalation)
when the 60 seconds expired. You would record his rate as "15" since only complete
cycles (inhalation and exhalation) are to be counted.
MD0531
4-7



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