Nearly three months ago, the Santa Monica Fire Department became one of the first paramedic providers in Los Angeles County to offer a new treatment option to patients experiencing difficulty breathing, Santa Monica fire officials said.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device is described as providing non-invasive, safe breathing support and oxygen for patients experiencing respiratory distress.

The treatment method provides a continuous level of positive pressure to the lungs through an airtight mask, keeping collapsing airways open and oxygenated, and this treatment decreases the work of breathing, raises oxygen levels and helps decrease anxiety, fire officials said.

Most patients experience almost immediate relief with the application of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, fire officials note.

The method is commonly used at home by individuals who suffer from sleep apnea. For paramedics, the tool is used for patients with moderate to severe respiratory distress.

The tool is useful for patients suffering from congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and near drowning.

Fire officials said it is important for the patient to realize that the mask may be uncomfortable or feel claustrophobic initially, but once it is in place it will bring relief. The sensation is often compared to the feeling of sticking one’s head out the window of a moving car, they said.

All paramedic units in Santa Monica now carry the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device and all fire department paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) have been trained in its use.

Fire department paramedics say they are proud to provide this cutting-edge treatment to the Santa Monica community.