The Peaceful Pill eHandbook The Problem of Carbon Dioxide (CO2 )
In normal respiration, the human body uses oxygen and produces carbon dioxide as waste. Carbon dioxide is removed from the body when we exhale. While the human body is relatively insensitive to falling levels of oxygen, it is very sensitive to any rise in the level of carbon dioxide.
When the body detects an increase of carbon dioxide, a warning message from the brain alerts us. The person will be roused and reacts by gasping and experiences ‘air hunger’. If the person is using a plastic Exit bag, any rise in the level of carbon dioxide within the bag may result in the person pulling the bag from their head in panic. This reaction is known as a Hypercapnic (high carbon dioxide) Alarm Response.
Hyperventilating to Minimise the Alarm Response
To minimise the chance of experiencing panic and air hunger, it is recommended that before pulling down the bag, one spends a short time (1-2 mins) hyperventilating (ie. inhaling and exhaling air into the lungs fully at an increased frequency). Put simply, deep breaths in and out quickly. This hyperventilating has the effect of pre-lowering the CO2
level in the blood, and greatly
reduces any likelihood of an alarm response when the bag is pulled down.