Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a life-saving technique that is performed in emergency situations. It’s the act of combining chest compression and artificial ventilation to maintain blood flow to the heart, brain, and other vital organs. This procedure is only done if you see a person in a state of cardiac arrest, that is, if their heart stopped beating or they have stopped breathing.
CPR is an important skill to learn because it can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival if they are in this state of emergency. By keeping the blood flowing — even minimally — you can keep a person alive until medical professionals arrive.
This can be a lot of pressure for bystanders, as they have to react quickly yet effectively. So, we highlighted some top tips to keep in mind if you are ever the one who has to administer CPR in a critical situation.
Before Performing CPR
It is important to note that a cardiac arrest is very different from a heart attack, and CPR is not the right solution for those experiencing the latter. So, before performing CPR, ask yourself these three questions to ensure it’s the right course of action:
- Are they responsive? Talk to the person and see if they are able to respond to any of your questions.
- Are they breathing? Look at their chest to see if it’s rising or place your cheek close to their nose and mouth to feel any air passing.
- Do they have a pulse? Check for sign of a pulse by placing your index and middle fingers on the inside of their wrist or their neck.
If they aren’t responding, breathing, or have a pulse, then you can immediately start performing CPR. Don’t forget to also call 911 right away.
Below is a step-by-step process on how to perform CPR. It’s important to learn these instructions if you are the one who can help in this emergency.
- Get in the right position: You want to make sure that the person is lying flat on their back and that you are kneeling beside them. Then, place the heel of one of your hands directly at the center of their chest. Keeping your arms straight, place your second hand on top of the first one and interlock your fingers together. You should only have the heel of your first hand touching their chest, so keep fingers raised.
- Start pumping: Lean forward so that your shoulders are directly over their chest and press down, keeping your arms straight and fingers interlocked. Use your whole upper-body so that you are pressing down their chest by about two inches. Then, release the pressure without moving your hands or body out of position because you will be repeating this movement about 30 times at a rate of 100 compressions a minute. A trick to know how fast you should be pumping is the push to the beat of the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” or Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love.”
- Open up their airway: Next, you want to tilt their head back by gently pushing their forehead back with one hand, and lifting their chin with the other. This will open their airway and make their mouth open slightly.
- Administer rescue breathing: Keeping one hand on their chin for support, use your other hand to pinch their nose shut. Inhale normally, place your mouth on theirs, then slowly blow out until you see their chest rise. Once their chest is full of air, remove your mouth and wait until their chest goes back down. Once it does, repeat a second time.
- Repeat. Repeat the entire process, giving 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. Keep going until there are either signs of movement or until emergency medical personnel arrives.
This can seem overwhelming, especially in a state of panic. If you fear forgetting the exact steps, a trick is to simply remember C-A-B: compressions, airway, and breathing. These are the three primary steps to keep in mind above anything else.
Variations of CPR
The above step-by-step guide is the traditional way to administer CPR, but there are different variations you can follow depending on your level of experience in first aid. If you are untrained or feel uncomfortable, it is recommended to perform a hand-only version. This consists of 100-120, uninterrupted chest compressions a minute until paramedics arrive excluding the breath rescues completely.
Performing CPR on Children
You can perform CPR on any child or infant over four weeks old. However, the process will vary slightly depending on their age and size. It is crucial to know the differences in administering CPR on kids if ever you are faced with that situation.
From one year old through puberty
This process is essentially the same as the one highlighted above. The difference here is that you may choose to use only one hand versus two during the chest compressions if the child is very small. Also, during the rescue breaths, you wouldn’t blow air until their chest rises, but instead only blow for one second and check to see if their chest has risen. This is to ensure you aren’t blowing too hard into their lungs.
From four weeks old to one year
Again, you will follow the same steps as above, but with a few modifications. During chest compressions, only use two fingers and don’t push the chest down any more than 1.5 inches. And, when administering the breath rescues, your mouth should cover both their nose and mouth. Then, instead of inhaling using your lungs, only use the strength of your cheeks to give gentle puffs of air for about one second.
According to the CPR Headquarters, less than 20 percent of Americans are equipped to perform CPR during a medical emergency situation. This is a frightening statistic considering that one day your life may be in a stranger's hand, and vice-versa. It is therefore crucial that each one of us takes a stand to learn at least the basic first-aid practices.
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