Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation keeps oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until advanced treatment is available. There is usually enough oxygen to keep the vital organs alive, but it's only supported for a few minutes. After that, it will not circulate unless someone performs CPR.

Knowing basic emergency first aid and CPR is essential because it can double or triple the victim's chance of survival. Keeping the blood flow active, even partially, extends the opportunity for a successful resuscitation once the emergency medical team arrives on site. Although there is no guarantee that the victim will survive CPR, it does give them a chance when otherwise, there would have been none. Without CPR, it only takes a few minutes for the victim's brain to become injured due to a lack of oxygen.

2 Types of CPR

  1. Traditional CPR with rescue breaths - Involves chest compressions with rescue breaths at a ratio of 30:2 compressions to ventilation. This type of CPR can provide more oxygen to the body during critical moments before emergency medical help arrives. It can only be done by healthcare providers and trained individuals. 
  2. Hands only CPR - Also known as compressions only CPR, hands only CPR involves calling for help and doing continuous chest compressions in a rapid motion. Hands only CPR can be performed by the general public or bystanders who witness a sudden cardiac arrest. It can prevent a delay in getting the blood moving through the body.

CPR Steps for Adults

The American Heart Association develops science-based CPR guidelines. All recommendations below are based on the AHA Guidelines Update for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC).

Step 1. Check for consciousness

Check if the victim is conscious or unconscious. Tap the victim's shoulder and ask, "Are you OK?" loudly. It's also important to check the scene for factors that could put you in danger, such as traffic or fire.

Step 2. Call 911

If the victim is not responding, call 911 immediately or ask a bystander to call. If possible, ask a bystander to look for an AED machine. You can find AEDs in most offices and public buildings. If you are alone, call 911 first before performing CPR. 

Step 3. Check for breathing and open the airway

Put the victim on their back carefully and kneel beside their chest. If you suspect a spinal injury, turn them carefully without moving the head or neck. Then, place your ear next to the victim's mouth and listen for 10 seconds. If you do not hear breathing or only hear occasional gasps, begin CPR immediately.

If the victim is unconscious but still breathing, do not perform CPR. If the victim does not seem to have a spinal injury, put them in the recovery position. Keep monitoring the breathing and perform CPR if they stop breathing.

Step 4. Begin CPR

Chest Compression

Place the heel of one hand between the nipple in the center of the chest (sternum). Then, place your other hand on top of that hand. Center your weight directly over your hands.

Push hard and fast to a depth of at least two inches at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute until the victim responds. Your hands shouldn't bounce, but you should lift your entire body weight off the patient between each compression.

Rescue Breathing (Mouth to Mouth Breathing)

Tilt the victim's head back slightly and lift their chin. Next, pinch their nose shut, place your mouth fully over theirs, and blow to make their chest rise. If their chest does not rise with the initial rescue breath, tilt their head again. If their chest still does not rise with a second rescue breath, the person might be choking.

If you have had CPR training and feel comfortable performing the steps, push on the chest 30 times, then give two rescue breaths.

Step 5. Repeat the cycle

Repeat the cycle of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breathing until the person starts breathing or help arrives. If an AED arrives, continue performing CPR until the machine is set up and ready to use.

Step 6. Use AED if available

Turn on the machine, and attach the pads during CPR. AED can analyze abnormal rhythm and send an electrical shock to get the heart to return to its normal rhythm. 

Look closely at the images on the pads. The device will tell you what to do, so it's essential to follow the prompts correctly. Deliver a shock if the AED determines one is needed. Do not touch the victim during the analysis or shock delivery. Say, “CLEAR” out loud, in a commanding voice.

Continue CPR starting with chest compressions, whether you had to give a shock or not.

Step 7. Put the victim in the recovery position

Kneel on the side of the victim. Extend the arm closest to you at a right angle to their body with their palm facing up. Take the other arm of the victim and fold it, so the back of the hand rests on the cheek nearest to you and hold it in place. Monitor the breathing until emergency medical services arrive.

CPR Steps for Children 1 to 8 years old

The CPR procedure for children between 1 to 8 years old is basically the same as that for an adult.

Step. 1 Check for Consciousness

Check if the child is conscious or unconscious. Tap the child's shoulder and ask, "Are you OK?" in a loud voice. It's also important to check the scene for factors that could put you in danger, such as traffic or fire.

Step 2. Call 911

If the child is not responding, call 911 immediately or ask a bystander to call and search for an AED machine. You can find AEDs in most offices and public buildings. If you are alone, call 911 first before performing CPR. 

Step 3. Check for breathing and open the airway.

Place your ear next to the child's mouth and listen for 10 seconds. If you do not hear breathing or only hear occasional gasps, begin CPR immediately.

If the child is unconscious but still breathing, do not perform CPR. If the child does not seem to have a spinal injury, put them in the recovery position. Keep monitoring their breathing and perform CPR if they stop breathing.

Step. 4 Begin CPR

 Place two hands (or one hand if the child is tiny) on the child's sternum. Push hard and fast to a depth of at least two inches until the child responds. Your hands shouldn't bounce, but you should lift your entire body weight off the patient between each compression.

If you have had CPR training and feel comfortable performing the steps, push on the chest 30 times, then give two rescue breaths.

Step 5. Repeat the cycle

Repeat the cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until help arrives or the child wakes up.

CPR Steps for Infants

Step 1. Check for Consciousness

Flick the bottom of the infant's foot to elicit a response. This takes the place of tapping the shoulder of an older person.

Step 2. Call 911

If there is no response from the infant, call 911 immediately or ask a bystander to call. If you are alone, call 911 first before performing CPR. 

Step 3. Give chest compressions

Place two fingers of your one hand in the center of the chest. Gently use your fingers to compress the chest about 1.5 inches deep. Perform two compressions per second, just as you would when giving an adult CPR.

Step 4. Perform rescue breathing

If you are comfortable giving rescue breaths, give two of them between each series of 30 chest compressions, just as you would with an older person.

Step 5. Repeat.

Repeat cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until help arrives or the infant wakes up.

Key Takeaways

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is a lifesaving procedure that can increase the chances of survival of victims suffering a heart attack or cardiac arrest. The steps of CPR will depend on whether the victim is an infant, child, or adult. However, the basic steps of chest compressions and rescue breath will remain the same. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Tap the victim's shoulder and ask, "Are you OK?" loudly to check consciousness for Adults and Childrens. For infants, flick the bottom of their foot.
  • Call 911 immediately if the victim is not responding.
  • Place your ear next to the victim's mouth and listen for 10 seconds to check for breathing.
  • The correct compression rate for Adults, Children, and Infant is 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
  • Compression depth for Adults and Children is 2 inches. For infants, at least one-third of the diameter of the chest (about 1½ inches).
  • Repeat the cycle of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until the victim starts breathing or help arrives.
  • If AED is available, continue performing CPR until the machine is set up and ready to use.
  • Whether you had to give a shock or not using AED, continue CPR.
  • When the victim is in a recovery position, continue monitoring the breathing until the emergency medical team arrives.
  • If you are untrained, perform hands only CPR.

If you are interested in getting certified in CPR, training centers and organizations offer CPR and First Aid training in-person, online, or through blended learning. CPR classes are typically completed in 1 hour, depending on which format you choose. Once you have completed the CPR class, you will be able to get a certificate that will allow you to respond to a wide range of medical emergencies. 

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