Quick: You just pulled your drowning child out of a pool or your spouse is suddenly having a cardiac arrest. What do you do?
You’d feel a lot more in control of those horrifying situations if you knew how to perform CPR. CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and it’s used to keep someone alive who can’t breathe on their own or whose heart has stopped pumping. The sooner CPR is administered, the better. And considering that 88 percent of cardiac arrests happen at home, knowing how to perform CPR until an ambulance arrives can be the difference between life and death for a loved one.
Keep in mind that CPR is performed differently for adults and babies (and requires minor modifications for children). That said, here are some basic tips that can help you perform CPR if necessary:
- Figure out what’s needed. Make sure that the environment is safe and secure, then tap the person on the shoulder and ask if they are ok. If they’re unconscious, check to see if they are breathing. If there is no breath, call 911 yourself or ask another bystander to do it.
- Start helping the heart beat. If you are sure there have been no neck injuries, lightly tilt the victim’s head back to lift their chin. Kneel down and place the heel of your hand on the person’s chest between their nipples. If you are performing CPR on an adult, place the heel of your other hand on top and intertwine your fingers. Straighten your elbows, and align your shoulders over your hands. Using your upper body weight, start your compressions. The goal is to perform 100 to 120 compressions each minute, allowing the chest to rise after each compression. It might sound a little weird, but think about performing compressions to the beat of The Bee Gees’ song, “Stayin’ Alive.”
- Only do rescue breaths if you’ve been trained. The American Heart Association recommends that only people who have been taught how to do rescue breaths attempt this part of CPR (everyone else should stick to the chest compressions). If you’ve been trained and the victim isn’t breathing, do two rescue breaths after every 30 compressions. With their head tilted back and chin lifted, pinch their nose shut and place your mouth over the victim’s mouth. Blow into their mouth (you should notice that their chest starts to rise when you do this). After two breaths, resume compressions if necessary.
The above tips are not a substitute for Red Cross training. Visit the American Red Cross website to find a location where you can get trained in CPR and other first aid-related programs. And remember that adults aren’t the only ones who can learn how to perform CPR—children as young as nine years old can be taught the basics. While they may not have the physical strength to effectively perform certain procedures like chest compressions, they can learn other valuable skills like emergency calling and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
For more information on important life-saving skills, visit these other blogs:
- Learn How to Handle a Medical Emergency Like a Pro
- How the American Heart Association Works to Improve Michiganders’ Cardiovascular Health
- 5 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe While Swimming This Summer
Photo credit: FVSU