A simple lifesaving action can make a difference between life and death in an emergency. So whether it's your loved one or a stranger, it's essential to know how to perform the correct CPR for children and adults. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is a lifesaving procedure performed when someone's heart has stopped beating. Apart from learning the skill of administering CPR, one of the most key aspects of saving a life is understanding the differences between adult and child CPR.

Adult CPR

The primary reason why adults need CPR is for cardiac arrest. While they can still suffer from blocked airways, it's much less common. If you're in a situation where you need to perform CPR on an adult, call 911 immediately before starting CPR or someone else to call. First, check the victim's pulse and then begin CPR with chest compressions. If you're an untrained bystander, a 911 operator or emergency medical personnel will guide you to do hands-only CPR over the phone. Use Automated External Defibrillator or AED if needed.

Child CPR

Children are most likely to need CPR due to a blocked airway. They have narrow air passages and tend to put anything in their mouths. Child CPR protocols apply to children up to puberty or those weighing less than 121 pounds. You'll be performing many of the same steps as an adult, but you'll be doing them differently. If you're the only one around and you need to choose between starting CPR and dialing 911, go for the CPR. Children are more resilient, and their chances of survival are much higher if you begin CPR immediately. But, you still have to call the emergency medical services after two minutes of CPR with rescue breaths. 

The Difference Between Adult and Child CPR

CPR is similar for adults and children, but there are key differences that you should know. While adult and child CPR both require chest compressions and rescue breaths, their application differs slightly because a child's physiology, bone density, and strength differ from an adult's. It is essential to know the difference between adult and pediatric CPR so that you can offer lifesaving aid in an emergency. 

Chain of Survival

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).

What is the chain of survival for adults?

According to the American Heart Association, the five links in the adult Chain of Survival are:

  1. Recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system
  2. Early CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation with an emphasis on chest compressions
  3. Rapid defibrillation
  4. Basic and advanced emergency medical services
  5. Advanced life support and post-cardiac arrest care

What is the chain of survival for a child?

The pediatric chain of survival consists of:

  1. Prevention of Cardiac Arrest
  2. Early, High-Quality CPR
  3. Rapid Activation of the Emergency Response System
  4. Effective Advanced Life Support
  5. Integrated Post-Cardiac Arrest Care

How to Check the Consciousness?

Before starting CPR, it's essential to check if the victim is unconscious. With adult CPR, it's generally recommended that you tap or shake the person to check for consciousness. It's the same procedure with children. You need to tap their shoulder and ask, "Are you okay?" loudly. If you don't see movement or other responsiveness, begin CPR.

How to Check the Airway?

Before starting CPR, it's essential to check if the victim is unconscious. With adult CPR, it's generally recommended that you tap or shake the person to check for consciousness. It's the same procedure with children. You need to tap their shoulder and ask, "Are you okay?" loudly. If you don't see movement or other responsiveness, begin CPR.

With adult CPR, we're taught that if we're alone and have to choose between starting CPR and dialing 911, we should dial 911 first. With babies and children, it's the opposite. Start by doing five cycles of compressions and breaths right away, which takes around two minutes. Then, as with adults, give 30 chest compressions and then two rescue breaths; this counts as one cycle.

How to do Rescue Breathing?

When performing CPR on an adult, you'll likely have to use full lung strength to administer effective rescue breaths. The breaths should be much gentler with children. Pinch the child's nose shut, and then use your mouth to make a seal over the child's mouth. Since a child's airway is more fragile, it's vital to be cautious when giving rescue breaths and not tilt the victim's head back too far. Watch for the chest rising and falling when performing rescue breaths.

What's the Difference in Hands Placement?

For adults, place your hands in the center of the victim's chest between the nipples. Put the heel of your one hand in the center of the chest on the breastbone. Then place the other hand's heel directly on top of the first. Lift or interlace your fingers. Position your shoulders directly over your hands. Keep your arms straight. Push straight down to compress

For children, continue to place your hands in the center of the child's chest, between the nipples. Use either 1 or 2 hands for compressions, depending on the child's body size. If you become tired during compressions, use both hands to ensure you continue to reach the desired depth.

What's the Correct Compression Rate?

There's no difference in the ratio of compressions for adults and children. This means that for every 30 compressions, two rescues breathes are needed at 100-120 compressions per minute. That's about 2 compressions per second. So start by doing 5 compressions and rescue breathes cycles, which take around 2 minutes. Push hard and fast as you can on the center of the chest during chest compressions and allow complete chest recoil after each compression. 

What's the Correct Compression Depth?

For adults, the depth of compression should be at least two inches. If you are CPR-certified, remember to use the ratio of 30 compressions to two rescue breaths. For children aged 1 to 8 years old, push down 1 1/2 to 2 inches, approximately one-third of the chest diameter. For the larger child, it will be the same for adults. Release the pressure, then rapidly repeat at about 100-120 beats per minute.

Hands-only CPR

You may have heard of a method of CPR where you do chest compressions but don't do rescue breathing. This is intended for situations in public where an adult collapses and needs help from a stranger who may be more willing to do CPR. This can only work for adults. Don't use hands-only CPR with children. Use conventional CPR instead, where you alternate 30 compressions with two breaths.

You never know when someone will suffer from a cardiac emergency or any emergency situation that may require CPR. It could happen in your home, office, or any public place. However, when you know how to perform CPR for adults and children, you will have the training and confidence to act fast and potentially save a life. The basic steps can keep the oxygen-rich blood flowing to the victim's brain and other vital organs until emergency medical treatment can restore the normal heart rhythm. You may enroll in an online CPR/AED certification course that follows the American Heart Association for Emergency Cardiovascular Care guidelines to do this successfully. Many organizations and training centers like CPR Select are offering this course. 

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