In an emergency, you may need to perform CPR on someone until first responders or paramedics arrive. You need to act fast and there might not be time to pull out your phone and look up a guide but maybe that’s the best you can do in the moment. If you aren’t sure what you’d do in the moment, you’ve come to the right place!

We’re going to cover basic CPR guidelines and how to practice safe CPR methods on both adults and children. Stick around and you’ll be better prepared to save a life in no time.

What is CPR?

CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency intervention performed by compressing the chest in short bursts when a person’s heart stops beating. It keeps the blood flowing to the brain until emergency services arrive and take over. If CPR is begun as soon as the heart stops beating effectively, your intervention could drastically raise the person’s chances of survival.

When should you use CPR?

There are certain situations in which CPR is the most appropriate and effective intervention. CPR should be performed if an adult is not breathing at all or if a child/infant is not breathing normally. Other occasions when you should consider CPR are:

  • When the person is not responding to physical or verbal calls for attention. At this point, you should check for other signs that they need CPR.
  • When they stop breathing. When someone stops breathing, their brain isn’t getting the oxygen it needs. Without oxygen, the brain dies and the person typically does not regain consciousness.
  • When the heart is no longer beating. The purpose of CPR is to keep blood circulating to the heart. Without a heartbeat, starting chest compressions right away keeps some blood flowing to the brain.
  • When a person is suffering from a heart attack or cardiac arrest and has stopped breathing.
  • When a person has been electrocuted and is not breathing. Powerful shocks to a person’s body often stop the heart.
  • When a person experiences a drug or alcohol overdose, is choking, has been suffocated, or has nearly drowned. All of these circumstances prevent a person from breathing and will eventually cause the heart to stop beating.

When should you not use CPR?

The rules for this are simple. You should not use CPR if:

  • The person in question is still breathing
  • The person is responding to physical and verbal calls for attention from you or others
  • The heart is still beating.

Performing CPR in any of these circumstances may cause more damage which may lower their chances of survival. If other interventions are appropriate, they should be used first. CPR is a last resort reserved only for serious emergencies.

What are the basic steps of CPR?

In an emergency, you should use these steps to perform CPR:

  • Call 911. This is the very first thing you should do. It takes two hands to do compressions appropriately in adult CPR so, once you get started, you won’t have a free hand to use your phone. If there are multiple people around, have someone else call emergency services while you begin CPR.
  • Lay the person on their back, being sure their airway is open. This is usually achieved by tilting the head back slightly and making sure that the mouth and nose are unobstructed. If you notice food, vomit, or any other object in the back of the throat, remove it only if it is loose and can be easily reached without risking pushing it further into the airway.
  • Check if the person is breathing effectively. If they are only gasping a few times per minute, it isn’t enough to provide an adequate amount of oxygen. If they are breathing normally, hold off on starting CPR and continue to observe them. If they are not breathing normally, start CPR immediately. Check to see if their heart is still beating. If you cannot feel a pulse or the pulse is very weak and slow, it’s important to start CPR right away. The sooner you begin, the better the chances of survival.
  • Perform 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths, moving between the two actions are quick as you can.
  • Repeat compressions and rescue breaths until emergency services arrive to provide proper medical treatment.

How should you place your hand on a person’s chest when performing CPR?

When performing CPR, hand placement depends on the person’s age.

  • For adult CPR, place one palm on the back of the other hand so they’re on top of another and interlock them. Keep your elbows straight and push down in the center of the chest with the heel of the bottom hand, slightly below the nipple line. Press hard enough to reach a depth of at least two inches.
  • For children, use only one hand for chest compressions. Press down hard and fast with the heel of the hand in the center of the chest, slightly below the nipple line. Again, aim for a depth of two inches.
  • For infants, use only two fingers and push down 1.5 inches in the center of the chest just below the nipple line.

Important factors to remember

Below are the key things to remember when it comes to performing CPR.

  • CPR is necessary when a person stops breathing, becomes unresponsive, or if their heart stops beating. In other situations, alternative methods should be used.
  • Use the guidelines for different ages of people for the most effective lifesaving technique.
  • Always call 911 before you start chest compressions. You cannot stop once you start and calling 911 first ensures that first responders are on their way.
  • Always do 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths, in that order.
  • Only remove obstructions in the throat if you know that you can. If you are unsure, it is better to leave the object where it is.
  • Performing CPR on victims may cause the breaking of ribs or cartilage on their chest. This can be normal and a sign that you are pushing hard enough especially as the victim ages.

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