AED Use on Children and Infants: A Lifesaving Guide

Using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on a child or infant during a sudden cardiac arrest can be a life-saving intervention. While AEDs are primarily designed for adults, some models have pediatric settings and specific child/infant pads. It's crucial to know how to use an AED correctly and adapt the process for younger patients. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps for using an AED on a child and infant.


How to use an AED on a Child and Infant?

Using an AED in children and infants is a critical step. It requires a lower level of energy to defibrillate the heart. Here's a step by step instructions on how to use an AED on a child and infant.


Step 1: Secure an AED

AEDs are typically found in public areas such as schools, airports, shopping centers, and workplaces, so familiarize yourself with these locations. Once you have located the AED, retrieve it quickly. Open the case and press the power button to turn it on. The AED will provide audible and visual instructions to guide you through the process.

Step 2: Prepare the Child or Infant

  • Ensure Safety: Before approaching the child or infant, ensure the scene is safe from hazards such as traffic, fire, or other dangers.
  • Expose the Chest: Remove any clothing covering the chest area to allow for proper pad placement.
  • Dry the Chest: If the chest is wet or sweaty, use a towel or cloth to wipe it dry. This ensures that the AED pads adhere properly.
  • Remove Medication Patches: If the child or infant is wearing any medication patches on their chest, remove them carefully to avoid interference with the AED's electrical impulses.


Step 3: Place the pads onto the child or infant

  • For a Child (Aged 1-8): Place one pad on the upper right chest, above the breast. Place the second pad on the lower left chest, below the armpit.
  • For an Infant (Under 1 Year): Place one pad on the infant's upper left chest. Place the second pad on the infant's back. If the pads touch on the front of the chest, use the anterior-posterior (front and back) placement instead.


Step 4: Keep distance from the child or infant

Once the AED pads are in place, stop performing CPR and ensure that no one is touching the child or infant. Instruct bystanders to stand clear and confirm that no one is in contact with the child or infant to allow the AED to accurately analyze the heart rhythm. The AED will automatically begin analyzing the heart rhythm, and you should listen carefully to its prompts. If the AED prompts "Check Electrodes," ensure the pads are properly attached and making good contact with the skin. If the AED advises a shock, confirm that everyone is clear of the child or infant and press the flashing shock button when prompted to deliver the shock.


Step 5: Allow the AED to analyze the heart rhythm

Follow the AED's verbal instructions. If the AED reads “Check Electrodes,” make sure the electrodes are in contact with each other. Stand clear of the cardiac arrest victim while the AED searches for a shockable rhythm. If the AED reads “Shock,” hold the flashing shock button until the defibrillation shock is released.


Step 6: Perform CPR for two minutes

Immediately after delivering the shock (or if no shock is advised), resume CPR. For children, compress the chest at least 2 inches (5 cm); for infants, compress about 1.5 inches (4 cm). Perform compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 per minute, allowing the chest to fully recoil between compressions. After every 30 compressions, give 2 rescue breaths by tilting the head back slightly, lifting the chin to open the airway, and covering the child's or infant's mouth and nose with your mouth, blowing gently until you see the chest rise.


Step 7: Repeat the cycle

Continue CPR for about 2 minutes (or 5 cycles of 30 compressions and 2 breaths), then stop for the AED to analyze the rhythm again. If the AED advises another shock, ensure everyone is clear and deliver the shock, continuing to follow the AED's prompts. If the child or infant shows signs of life, such as breathing or movement, stop CPR but leave the AED pads attached. Monitor them and be ready to resume CPR if necessary. Keep the child or infant warm and comfortable, reassuring them if they regain consciousness, and stay with them until emergency medical services (EMS) arrive.

aed on a child and infant

What is an Automated External Defibrillator?

Automated External Defibrillators are portable lifesaving medical devices that checks a cardiac arrest victim’s heartbeat and deliver a shock to restore a normal heart rhythm. Chances of survival from sudden cardiac death diminish by 10% for each minute without immediate CPR or external defibrillation. Some of the most common causes of sudden cardiac death in young people include Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle cells to enlarge, which then causes the chest walls to thicken.

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Can you use AED on an infant?

AED devices are manufactured with adults in mind. However, rescuers are allowed to use this lifesaving device on children and infants with suspected SCA if a manual defibrillator with a trained rescuer is not immediately available. AEDs have pediatric settings and defibrillator pads that is adjusted, making them safe for infants and young children weighing less than 55 pounds. The American Heart Association recommends that pediatric electrode pads be used on children under eight and infants, while adult pads can be used for children eight years and older.

Safety of Using AEDs on a Child

It is essential to know that AEDs are safe for young children ages 8 years old and younger, and even infants. Providing adequate Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and using an AED is the best way to treat a child or infant in sudden cardiac arrest. Without effective CPR and an AED to restart the heart, the child’s condition can be fatal within minutes. And since young children and infants have such small and delicate systems, getting their hearts restarted quickly is even more critical. This will restore the oxygenated blood flow around the body, supplying the brain and vital organ systems, limiting the damage to these systems.

aed on a child

Can you use adult AED pads on an infant?

Most AEDs come with both adult and pediatric electrode pads designed to be used on younger children. Child pads are used on children under 8 years old or those weighing less than 55 pounds. Pediatric electrode pads give a lesser electric shock than adult pads will. Adult pads are used on children above 8 or older or weighing more than 55 pounds. So, if pediatric pads are not available, a rescuer may use standard adult pads.

aed on a child and infant

How Common is Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children and Infants?

Cardiac Arrest emergency is pretty uncommon in children. But, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, although it is unusual in children, it affects anyone, even those who are physically healthy. Over 2,000 children and adolescents die yearly in the United States due to sudden cardiac arrest. SCA is also responsible for 10-15% of sudden unexpected infant deaths.

Pediatric cardiac arrest is uncommon but severe, primarily resulting from respiratory arrest leading to cardiovascular collapse, unlike adults, where primary cardiac dysrhythmia is the main cause. To prevent deterioration, aggressive treatment focusing on oxygenation, ventilation, and hemodynamics should be initiated early. The 2015 AHA Heart and Stroke Statistics released by the American Heart Association found that 6,300 Americans under 18 experienced an EMS-assessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). Sudden death is prevented when CPR and AEDs are administered within three to five minutes of cardiac arrest.

Knowing that chest compressions and defibrillation are performed on children is helpful. Better yet is knowledge and training by getting CPR and First Aid Certification or Infant CPR training. Many training centers and health organization like the American Red Cross and CPR Select offers online CPR & First Aid Certification that you complete from the comfort of your home.


Mick NW, Williams RJ. Pediatric Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2020 Nov;38(4):819-839. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2020.06.007. Epub 2020 Sep 9. PMID: 32981620.

Fukuda T, Ohashi-Fukuda N, Kobayashi H, Gunshin M, Sera T, Kondo Y, Yahagi N. Public access defibrillation and outcomes after pediatric out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Resuscitation. 2017 Feb;111:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2016.11.010. Epub 2016 Nov 27. PMID: 27899017.