How to Take Temperature, Pulse, Respiration, and Blood Pressure 531
The pulse tells how fast the heart is beating and how hard it is working.
After hard work or exercise, the heart of a healthy person beats fast, but
slows back to normal in a few minutes. The heart usually increases 20
beats a minute for each degree (C) rise in fever.
A normal pulse in an adult is between 60 and 90 beats per minute. A fast
pulse can be a sign of:
• blood loss or fluid loss, or shock (see page 254).
• fever and infection.
• problems with the lungs and breathing system, or with the heart.
• thyroid problems.
To take the pulse, put your
fingers on the wrist as shown
(do not use your thumb).
If you cannot find the pulse
in the wrist, feel for it in the
neck beside the voicebox,
or put your ear directly
on the chest and listen
for the heartbeat.
Respiration (breathing rate)
The breathing rate tells you about health of the lungs and breathing
system. It can also give information about a person’s general health.To
take the breathing rate, watch the chest rise and fall when a person is at
rest. Normal breathing in an adult is 12 to 20 total breaths per minute (a
complete breath equals one breath in and one breath out).
Breathing usually speeds up (along with the pulse) when there is infection,
fever, blood loss or dehydration, shock, lung problems, or other emergencies.
Very slow pulse and breathing in a very sick person can mean she is
Fast, shallow breathing can be a sign of infection of the breathing system.
A breathing rate of more than 30 breaths per minute may be a sign of
pneumonia (see page 304).
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