CPR is a lifesaving technique. It aims to keep the blood and oxygen flowing
through a person’s body when their heartbeat and breathing have stopped. If
you perform CPR within the first six minutes after a person’s heart stops, it
can potentially keep them alive until medical help arrives.
Any trained person can perform CPR. It involves external chest compressions
and rescue breathing. While there’s no substitute for getting formal CPR
training from a certified instructor, you can still help someone whose
breathing and heartbeat have stopped if you haven’t had formal training.
Heart Association (AHA) recommends that bystanders who haven’t received CPR
training contact emergency services and initiate hands-only CPR, without rescue
breathing. This method is easy to perform, it’s better than simply waiting for trained
help to arrive, and it can potentially save lives.
1. Survey the scene
Before you approach someone who’s collapsed, check for hazards that could
potentially hurt you. Make sure it’s safe for you to reach the victim. For
example, look for fallen power lines, smoke, or other signs of danger.
2. Check the person for responsiveness
Shake the person’s shoulder and loudly ask them “Are you OK?” If they’re an
infant, tap the bottom of their foot and check for a reaction.
3. Contact emergency
If the person doesn’t respond, call 911 or your local emergency services.
You can also ask someone else to call.
Begin CPR first if you’re alone and you suspect the person is a child or victim
of drowning. Perform it for two minutes, and then call 911.
4. Check their heart
with an automated external defibrillator (AED)
If an AED is available, use this device to check the person’s heart rhythm.
Some malls, gyms, and other centers keep an AED on site. This portable
electronic device can automatically detect abnormalities in a person’s heart
rhythm. If needed, it also delivers an electric shock to their chest to restore
their normal heart rhythm.
This process is called defibrillation. According to the AHA, most sudden
cardiac arrests are caused by a fast and irregular heart rhythm that begins in the
lower chambers, or ventricles, of someone’s heart. This is called ventricular
fibrillation. An AED can help restore their heart’s normal rhythm and even
revive someone whose heart has stopped functioning.
If the AED instructs you to do so, deliver one electric shock to the person’s
heart before you begin chest compressions. If the person appears to be a child between
the ages of 1 and 8 years old, perform chest compressions for two minutes before
checking their heart with an AED. You should also use pediatric pads with the
AED if they’re available. Don’t use an AED if the person appears to be an
infant under the age of 1 year old.
If an AED isn’t immediately available, don’t waste time looking for the
device. Start chest compressions immediately.
5. Position your hand
on their chest
If the person looks older than 8 years of age, place the heel of one of your
hands on the center of their chest, between their nipples. Place your other
hand on top of your first hand and interlock your fingers. You should draw your
fingers upward and the heel of your bottom hand should be flat on the person’s chest.
If the person is a child who appears to be between 1 and 8 years old, place only
one of your hands on the center of their chest between their nipples. For
younger infants, place two of your fingers on the center of their chest,
slightly below their nipple line.
6. Begin compressions
If the person appears to be older than 8 years old, use your upper body to
push straight down on their chest to compress it by at least 2 inches. Deliver
compressions at a rate of 100 compressions per minute. Allow their chest to recoil
If they appear to be a child between the ages of 1 to 8 years old, push
straight down on their chest to compress it by about 2 inches, at a rate of 100
compressions per minute. Allow their chest to recoil between compressions. For younger
infants, push straight down to compress their chest by about 1 1/2 inches, at
a rate of 100 compressions per minute. Again, let their chest recoil between
7. Continue compressions
Repeat the compression cycle until the person starts to breathe or medical
help arrives. If they begin to breathe, help them lie on their side quietly while
you wait for medical help.
In 2010, the AHA
revised its guidelines for CPR with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. According to
the updated guidelines, you should start chest compressions first before
opening the person’s airway.
The new acronym CAB stands for compressions, airway, and breathing. It’s
replaced the acronym ABC, which stood for airway, breathing, and compressions. In
the first few minutes after someone’s heart stops beating, oxygen remains in
their lungs and bloodstream. Starting chest compressions immediately can help
send this critical oxygen to their brain and heart without delay.
If you’re trained in CPR and come across someone who’s unresponsive or not
breathing do the following:
1. Perform hands-only CPR
Follow the steps for hands-only CPR for 30 chest compressions.
2. Open their airway
Then, start to perform the steps for CPR with mouth-to-mouth breathing.
Put the palm of your hand on the person’s forehead. Gently tilt their head
back. Lift their chin forward with your other hand. If the person is a small
child or infant, a head tilt alone will often open their airway.
3. Give rescue breaths
If the person appears to be older than 1 year of age, pinch their nostrils
shut and cover their mouth with a CPR facemask to make a seal. If they look
younger than 1 year of age, cover both their mouth and nose with the mask. Some
masks are big enough to cover the nose and mouth of older children and adults
too. If a mask isn’t available, cover the person’s mouth with your own.
Give two rescue breaths, exhaling for about one second each. Watch for their
chest to rise with each breath. If it doesn’t rise, reposition the facemask and
4. Alternate rescue
breathing with chest compressions
Continue alternating 30 chest compressions with two rescue breaths until the
person begins to breathe or medical help arrives. If they begin to breathe, help
them lie on their side quietly while you wait for medical assistance.
The AHA, American Red Cross, and many other agencies offer CPR training.
Many agencies also offer training to help you learn how to use an AED. When
used properly with CPR, an AED greatly increases a victim’s chances for
To learn about opportunities for CPR and AED training in your area, contact
the AHA, American Red Cross, or local first-aid organizations. This training
could potentially help you save someone’s life.