How are People Simultaneously Able to Talk, but Unable to Breathe?


Injured people often say they can’t breathe, but the act of talking requires a mostly open airway, and air to be pushed over the vocal cords. Is it a mental thing or are they really suffocating?

In: Biology

Breathing out may possible even though breathing in may not be. It is easier to force air out of the lungs than it is to draw air into the lungs.

Inhaling requires creating a negative pressure differential between the inside of your chest cavity and the outside air by flexing your diaphragm muscle.

If there is a weight on your chest, then the pressure differential is positive, not negative. So air can go out, but it can’t come in.

Alternatively, if your windpipe is partially blocked, you might be able to create a higher positive pressure differential by trying to force the air out of your lungs with your abdominal muscles than the negative pressure differential that you could create by trying to breathe in using your diaphragm muscle.

In both cases, you can talk, but you can’t breathe.

Mixture of both, so yes the ability to talk does require airflow but the issue is is what your body is doing or not doing with it

They can breathe, usually. They struggle to do so and it may be very painful, but they can breathe.

If they can’t breathe, they can’t say more than a word or two.

A ) Pushing air out is easier than pulling it back in.

B ) “I can’t breathe” doesn’t always mean a complete inability to breathe, it just means that the person in question is having difficulties breathing, which often is enough to cause the “I can’t breathe” sensation and very well may lead to suffocation: getting *some* air in doesn’t really mean your body is getting enough oxygen to work with.

A lot of the time, if someone has difficulty breathing, they’ll feel the sensation of not being able to catch their breath or even choking. This makes them panic and say “I can’t breathe, please help.” In first aid courses I’ve taken, the instructors have pointed out that if they can form words, they are not immediately in danger of choking out and you don’t have to panic while assisting them.

You need less air to talk than you do to sustain your body long-term. So people could be breathing enough to let them talk, but not enough to keep them alive longer than a few minutes.