This is CPR Awareness Month
If someone’s breathing and heartbeat have stopped, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can save their life. But you must act quickly – a person can die or suffer irreversible brain damage after only 4 minutes without breathing.
CPR is described below, but the best way to learn is by taking an accredited CPR course.
First, make sure the person really needs CPR. Ask “Are you OK?” If they don’t respond, look, listen, and feel to see if they are breathing and have a pulse (see “Before help arrives – what you can do”).
If there is no breathing or no pulse, call 9-1-1 and check to see if there’s an automated external defibrillator (AED – a computerized device that can restart the heart beating) nearby. If so, get it, or ask someone to bring it to you.
- Place the person on their back on a firm surface.
- Open the person’s airway by tilting the head back with one hand on the forehead and the other under the chin. Sometimes this is enough to fix the problem. Look, listen, and feel for breathing.
- If the person is still not breathing, seal your mouth over their mouth, pinch their nose (so air doesn’t escape), and give them two rescue breaths. Each rescue breath should last about 1 second. Don’t take a deep breath before starting a rescue breath, just breathe in normally. Give one breath every 5 seconds. Watch the chest to make sure it rises and falls during the rescue breaths.
- Next, give chest compressions: Place the heel of your hand on the lower half of the breastbone between the nipples. Place the other hand on top and push down hard on the chest (30 compressions should take you about 20 seconds). Allow the chest to come back up again between compressions. Give 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths.
- Repeat the cycle of 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths until the AED is available.
- When the AED is available, use it by following the instructions on the package. The AED will tell you whether the person is shockable (i.e., whether giving a shock with the AED could help restart their heart). If so, give one shock, then start CPR again for 5 cycles (one cycle is 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths). If the person is not shockable, start CPR again and recheck them every 5 cycles to see if they have become shockable.
- Repeat until the person starts to move, or until medical help arrives.
Note: CPR techniques are similar for adults and children over 1 year of age, except that children may need smaller rescue breaths. Give breaths that are just large enough to make the chest rise.
For information about CPR on children under 1 year of age or any other questions, talk to your doctor or contact your local St. John’s Ambulance or Red Cross to enrol in a first aid course.
Safety note: You may be at risk of contracting diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C if you come in contact with the affected person’s blood (for example, if there are sores, blood, or broken skin in either person’s mouth). You may wish to use a CPR mask to protect yourself. You may want to purchase a mask and keep it in your bag or in the car so you’ll be prepared wherever you go.
*Please note that this health feature is intended to provide a general overview of CPR. It is not intended as a substitute for proper training through a certified first aid course. If you are interested in providing first aid, please contact your local St. John Ambulance, Life Saving Society, or Red Cross to enroll in a first aid course.
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