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How to Use an AED on a Child and Infant

aed on a child and infant

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July 23, 2022

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If a child is in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, you should begin CPR and ask lay rescuers to call emergency services and get an Automated External Defibrillator to increase the chance of survival. Children and infants who die of sudden cardiac arrest often have ventricular fibrillation, disrupting the heart’s normal electrical function. Out-of-hospital external defibrillation within the first 3 minutes results in survival rates. To help prevent deaths in children and infants, it’s essential to understand the use and function of AED on a child and infant. However, since an AED supplies an electrical shock to the heart, many are concerned about using this device on young children and infants.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about using an Automated External Defibrillator on a child and infant. 

What is an Automated External Defibrillator?

Automated External Defibrillators are portable lifesaving medical devices that can check 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.

aed on a child and infant

Can you use AED on an infant?

AED devices are manufactured with adults in mind. However, rescuers can also 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 can be 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

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 available in most public offices and buildings. Once you have secured an AED, retrieve it from its case and turn on the device immediately. Every AED is programmed to give step-by-step audible instructions for its use.

Step 2: Keep the child’s chest exposed

Wipe the child victim’s chest dry if necessary. Peel off existing medication patches, if any.

Step 3: Place the pads onto the child or infant

Place one adhesive electrode pads on the child’s upper right chest, above the breast, or the infant’s upper left chest. Then place the second pad on the lower left chest below the armpit or the infant’s back. If pads touch an infant’s chest, apply one pad on the anterior chest and another on the posterior of the infant instead.

Step 4: Keep distance from the child or infant

After you attach the pads correctly, stop doing CPR and advise the crowd to keep a distance from the victim and don’t touch them while the AED checks the heart rhythm.

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

Don’t remove the chest pads. Start chest compressions and give rescue breaths again. You should be doing these at a rate of at least 100 to 120 compressions per minute. The AED will continue to check the baby’s heart rhythm. If the child responds, stay with them. Keep the child comfortable and warm until help arrives.

Step 7: Repeat the cycle

If the child does not respond, continue CPR with the instructions from the AED. Do this until the heart of a child has normal rhythm or emergency medical services team arrives. 

aed on a child and infant

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 can be 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 can be 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.

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 can affect 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.

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 can be prevented when CPR and AEDs are administered within three to five minutes of cardiac arrest.

Key Takeaway

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when an electrical malfunction of the heart causes it to suddenly stop beating correctly, ceasing blood flow to the victim’s brain, lungs, and other organs. SCA demands quick decision-making and fast action. Lay bystanders responding rapidly make a surprising difference in SCA victims’ survival, whether adults or children. The more knowledge and training one has, the more likely a life will be saved! It is beneficial to keep a few facts in mind:

  • AEDs are lifesaving devices that can be used on both adults and children
  • Defibrillation is recommended for documented ventricular fibrillation (VF)/pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT) 
  • There are specialized child pads that give a lesser pediatric shock than adult pads will. 
  • Some AEDs also have special child settings, often activated by a switch or by inserting a special “key.”
  • When placing child pads on children, both go on the front. 
  • On infants, one pad is placed on the front, the other on the back to assure the pads do not contact one another.

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