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How to Respond to Respiratory vs. Cardiac Arrest with CPR Training

Updated: May 8

How to Respond to Respiratory vs. Cardiac Arrest with CPR Training
How to Respond to Respiratory vs. Cardiac Arrest with CPR Training

In moments of medical emergencies, understanding the subtle yet critical differences between respiratory and cardiac arrest can be the linchpin to saving a life. It's essential not just for healthcare professionals but for anyone committed to fostering a safer community. 

Through HealthForce Training Center’s American Heart Association CPR classes and dedicated training, individuals are empowered with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions and take effective action in these dire situations. 

Today we'll guide you through the nuances of recognizing and responding to these distinct types of emergencies, highlighting the pivotal role of CPR training in preparing yourself to be the difference in someone's most vulnerable moments.

Understanding Respiratory Arrest

Definition and Causes

Respiratory arrest occurs when breathing stops, leading to a lack of oxygen in the body. Causes can range from choking, asthma, or severe allergic reactions to more complex medical conditions.

Signs to Look For

Unlike cardiac arrest, victims of respiratory arrest may show signs of struggling to breathe before they stop breathing altogether. Understanding these signs is crucial for timely intervention.

Immediate Actions

Before delving into the specifics of CPR, ensuring the airway is open and clear is paramount. 

Techniques To Manage Airway Obstructions Effectively

Understanding the Airway

CPR training begins with teaching the basics of human anatomy, focusing on the airway's structure and how obstructions can occur. This foundational knowledge is crucial, as it informs the responder about what might be happening to the person in distress and guides the intervention strategy. Trainees learn to recognize the signs of a partially vs. fully obstructed airway and understand the implications of each.

Clearing the Airway

One of the primary techniques taught in CPR classes for dealing with airway obstructions is the Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) for adults and children. This method is effective in ejecting foreign objects lodged in the person's throat, clearing the way for air to move in and out of the lungs. For infants, a different approach is used, involving back blows and chest thrusts, to safely remove the obstruction without causing harm to the child’s more delicate body.

Safe Positioning

CPR training also covers how to position someone who’s choking or has an airway obstruction to maximize the effectiveness of clearance techniques and to prevent further harm. For example, learners are taught to lay infants in a specific way across their forearm while administering back blows. Such details are vital for the safe and effective resolution of these emergencies.

Transitioning to CPR

In cases where airway obstruction leads to unconsciousness, CPR training teaches how to seamlessly transition from attempting to clear the airway to performing CPR. This includes checking for breathing and pulse and beginning chest compressions and rescue breaths if necessary. The training emphasizes the importance of acting quickly and efficiently, as time is critical in such situations.

Understanding Cardiac Arrest

Definition and Causes

Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function, leading to a cessation of blood flow to the body's organs. Among other things, heart attacks, drowning, and electric shock can all be the cause.

Recognizing the Signs

The suddenness of cardiac arrest presents unique challenges, often occurring without warning. The victim becomes unresponsive, with no pulse or normal breathing.

Responding with CPR

Here, the role of CPR training becomes indisputably critical. Initiating chest compressions immediately can help maintain vital blood flow, saving precious time until professional help arrives.

Techniques Recommended for Adults Experiencing Cardiac Arrest

Here’s a breakdown of the CPR techniques recommended for adults experiencing cardiac arrest, based on guidelines from leading health organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA).

Immediate Actions

Safety First

Ensure the scene is safe for both the rescuer and the victim.

Check Responsiveness

Gently tap the victim’s shoulder and shout, "Are you okay?" to see if there’s any response.

Call for Help

If there’s no response, immediately call emergency services or direct someone else to do so. If available, also request an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Performing CPR

C: Compressions


Ensure the victim is lying flat on their back on a firm surface. Kneel beside their chest.

Hand Placement

Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim’s chest (on the lower half of the sternum). Place your other hand on top of the first, interlocking your fingers.

Depth and Rate

Press down hard and fast, compressing the chest at least 2 inches deep at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. The AHA suggests timing compressions to the beat of the song "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees as a mnemonic device

Full Recoil

Allow the chest to return to its normal position after each compression, which helps the heart refill with blood.

A: Airway

After 30 compressions, if you are trained in CPR and feel confident, open the victim’s airway using the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver. This involves tilting the head back slightly and lifting the chin to open the airway.

B: Breathing

Rescue Breaths (if trained and comfortable): 

Pinch the victim’s nose shut, take a normal breath, seal your lips over theirs, and blow air into their mouth. Look for chest rise to ensure effective breaths. Give two breaths, each over one second, then return to chest compressions.

Compression-Only CPR

If you're not trained in giving rescue breaths, or if you're not comfortable doing so, continue performing chest compressions only.

Using an AED

Turn On the AED

As soon as the AED arrives, turn it on and follow the voice prompts.

Attach Pads

Attach the AED pads to the victim’s bare chest as indicated in the device's instructions.

Analyze and Deliver Shock

Stand clear of the victim while the AED analyzes the heart rhythm. If a shock is advised, ensure no one is touching the victim and press the shock button when prompted.

Continuous Care

Cycle Continuation

Continue the cycle of 30 compressions and 2 rescue breaths (if doing conventional CPR), or continuous compressions (if doing compression-only CPR) until professional help arrives or the victim shows signs of life.

Do Not Interrupt

Minimize interruptions in chest compressions. Quick, efficient swaps between rescuers every two minutes can prevent fatigue and maintain the quality of compressions.

CPR Success Stories:

We at HealthForce Training Center continue to share inspiring stories from individuals who've successfully applied their training in real-life scenarios, underscoring the tangible impact of CPR knowledge in our blogs.  Here are a few notable ones:

The Role of CPR Training

Building Confidence

One of the most significant barriers to effective emergency response is hesitation. CPR classes are designed to build your confidence through hands-on practice, ensuring you can act decisively.

Practical Skills

Beyond theoretical knowledge, these classes provide the practical skills necessary for both scenarios, focusing on the techniques that can stabilize the victim until emergency services take over.

Certification and Beyond

Gaining a certification in CPR is just the beginning. It's about joining a community of capable individuals ready to step up in emergencies, embodying a commitment to care and readiness.

Finding the Right CPR Classes

Choosing a Course

Not all CPR classes are created equal. We'll provide tips on selecting a course that matches your learning style, availability, and the specific skills you wish to acquire.

Accessibility and Resources

With the rise of digital learning, accessing quality CPR training has never been easier. We'll guide you through finding reputable programs that offer flexibility without compromising on the depth of training.

Visit or call us via 1-866-277-9593 to book your CPR training!


Adelina Chauchescu
Adelina Chauchescu
Jul 12

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