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First Aid Basics: How to Perform CPR

CPR stands for Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, and is used to re-start heart and lung function in a victim who has collapsed and has no obvious breathing or pulse.

The old CPR guidelines were easily remembered by the letters “A-B-C,” referring to “airway,” “breathing,” and “circulation.” The new guidelines have put circulation first, so that the acronym to remember is now “C-A-B.” This is because it is considered most important to keep blood flowing to the brain while you’re working on breathing or until help arrives. If you see someone collapse or come across an unconscious person, quickly evaluate the situation:

Fist, determine if the victim is breathing. If they are, no CPR is necessary; call 911.

If they are not breathing but have a pulse, begin rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation).

If there is no breathing or pulse, perform CPR to try to restore both. If the cause is drowning or suffocation, apply chest compressions for one minute, then call 911.

In any case, stay with the victim until medical help arrives. Leaving the scene is called abandonment, and you could be held legally responsible.

Here is a summary of the new CPR instructions:

1.) Call 911 or ask someone else to do so.

2.) Touch the victim and ask in a loud voice, “Are you okay? Can you hear me?” (For an infant, tickle the bottom of the feet.) If there is no response, turn them onto their back and kneel beside their chest.

3.) Position the heel of one hand in the middle of the chest—between the nipples is usually the right spot—and place your other hand over the first, with fingers interlaced.

Kneeling up with your arms straight, begin chest compressions. Use your upper body weight as well as arm strength. The chest should go down at least two inches for adults and children up to 12, and about 1.5 inches in an infant. (Use just two fingers to compress an infant’s chest.) Compress about twice per second. If you’re familiar with the song, “Stayin’ Alive,” (an appropriate title!), the rhythm is just right: “Ah, ah, ah, ah—stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.” Continue until help arrives, OR…

4.) If you’re trained in CPR, after about 30 compressions you can open the person’s airway with a head tilt and chin lift. Turn the head slightly to one side and gently push the chin up. Using your index finger, sweep the inside of the person’s mouth to be sure there is no obvious obstruction present, such as a displaced dental bridge.

5.) Pinch the victim’s nose closed and cover their mouth with yours to create an airtight seal. Give 2 one-second breaths, watching for the chest to rise, allowing a second or two between breaths for the chest to fall again. (For an infant, administer 2 puffs of air, not deep breaths.) Ideally, you will have a helper—one person to do chest compressions and the other to do the rescue breathing. Note: if you’re squeamish about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation because of germs or other considerations, you might want to carry a barrier device such as Emergency Essentials’ CPR Microshield Clear Mouth Barrier in your car First-aid Kit.

6.) Continue alternating 2 breaths with 30 chest compressions. If you detect a pulse or if the person begins breathing on their own (not just occasional gasps), you can stop CPR, but stay around until help arrives. CPR can be exhausting, and most people can’t continue it for much longer than 5 minutes. Enlist the aid of other bystanders when you tire.

7.) If you’ve tried your best to help, you can feel good about your service, whatever the end result for the victim may be—and hopefully that will be an extension of his or her life.



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