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Shocking Truth About AEDs That Could Save Your Life!

Updated: May 31, 2023

Performing CPR with Automated External Defibrillator
Performing CPR with Automated External Defibrillator

Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, can restore normal heart rhythms to someone who has undergone cardiac arrest. These devices are often located in public spaces such as shopping malls, airports, schools, and office buildings.

Bystanders administering CPR and AEDs are essential to survival for the roughly 350,000 U.S. adults who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year.

However, statistics from the American Heart Association show that bystanders administer CPR about 40% of the time, and AEDs even less so. Here are five things you should know about AEDs and why you should not be afraid to use them.

1. They are a person's best chance for survival

Those who receive CPR and an electric shock from an AED have the best chance for survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases. One of the reasons for this is that the AED quickly restored their heart rhythm to a normal state. Dr. Mary Ann Peberdy, a professor of medicine and emergency medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, has said that these devices unequivocally save lives, and that people like Damar Hamlin, a Buffalo Bills player whose life was saved with an AED, are perfect examples of that.

2. Call 911 and start CPR first

If you find someone who has collapsed, the first thing to do is check for signs of life, such as whether the person is breathing normally. Sometimes, people in cardiac arrest can look as if they are breathing with "agonal breaths," when breathing is abnormal or the person is gasping for air. For a teen or adult who suddenly collapses, immediately call 911 and begin CPR by pushing in the center of the chest for 100 to 120 beats per minute. Chest compressions help keep blood flowing to the heart and other organs, and can prolong the time a shock is effective in restoring a normal heart rhythm.

3. Anyone can use an AED, even a child

The AED is an easy-to-use device that walks the user through the steps. Inside the box are pads and a diagram that shows where to place them on the bare skin. Once the device is turned on, a voice tells the person using it exactly what to do. If an electric shock is needed, the device delivers it and then tells the user to resume CPR. There is no minimum age required to operate the device. A child can operate an AED or perform effective CPR. If a child is too young or not strong enough, they can call 911 and get immediate help.

4. You can't make things worse

Many people are afraid of using AEDs because they fear making things worse. However, in a cardiac arrest situation, there is little to lose. Dr. Peberdy has said that if someone is in cardiac arrest, they are technically dead. CPR can double or triple the chance of survival from a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. Waiting for emergency medical services to arrive takes up precious time that could be used to administer CPR and use an AED.

5. Find the nearest AED

There is no standard place to store an AED, but they are often found on the wall near an elevator. If you are in a public building, ask at the front desk. There is also an app from the PulsePoint Foundation that identifies where registered AEDs are located, although not all devices are registered.

AEDs are easy to use and could be the difference between life and death in a cardiac arrest situation. They are located in many public spaces, but people may not realize they are there or that anyone can use them. By calling 911, starting CPR, and finding the nearest AED.

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