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Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Knowing how to do CPR can help you save someone's life in the most serious emergencies (e.g. sudden cardiac arrest).

This simple step-by-step guide will help lay rescuers learn the correct steps for administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Hands-Only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

Follow these basic steps for performing chest compressions on someone who is either unresponsive, unconscious, or not breathing normally:

  1. Put the heel of one hand on the centre of the patient's sternum (breastbone between the nipples). Place the other hand on top and try to interlock the fingers.
  2. Position your body close to the side of the patient so that your shoulders are 'directly' above your hands.
  3. Use your arms and the weight of your upper body to push straight down on the person's chest about six (6) centimetres (between 2 and 2.5 inches).
  4. Without removing your hands from their chest, allow the compression to recoil (release) and return back to its original position.
  5. Push hard and fast, repeating the compressions at a rate of one hundred (100) to one hundred and twenty (120) times per minute until (any):
    1. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrive.
    2. You get access to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
    3. The patient shows signs of recovery (e.g. starts breathing).
    4. You become too exhausted.
    5. The area becomes too dangerous to continue.

Note: Modern telephone systems have a facility that can offer basic life-saving instructions to first responders after calling for an ambulance (including advice about doing CPR).

Coronavirus (COVID-19) CPR Amendments

So, what should you do if you have some concerns about performing CPR on a person with coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The current NHS advice is to place a cloth or towel over the patient's mouth and nose and then perform hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Further information is available from the Resuscitation Council with interim guidance for first responders (on the GOV.UK website).

Note: The main section contains more advice and information about the key medical laws and ethics used in the United Kingdom.

Giving CPR with Rescue Breaths

Basic CPR First Aid training is available online or you can get hands-on practice with an instructor at any of the official training agencies (e.g. St John Ambulance).

You would get a nationally recognised certification after receiving the training in CPR. If so, you may choose to give chest compressions with rescue breaths to increase the chances of survival.

CPR for Adult Victims

  1. Put the heel of one hand on the centre of the person's chest between the nipples. Place the other hand on top, interlock the fingers, and press down hard and fast five (5) to six (6) centimetres (2 to 2.5 inches) at a steady rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
  2. After completing thirty (30) chest compressions, give the patient two (2) rescue breaths.
  3. Gently tilt their head back and lift the bony part of the chin up - using two fingers - to open the airway.
  4. Pinch their nose and seal your mouth over theirs. Blow steadily and firmly into their mouth for about one (1) full second. You should see their chest rise and fall as you give two (2) rescue breaths.
  5. Continue cycles of thirty (30) chest compressions and two (2) rescue breaths until (any):
    1. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrive.
    2. You can use a Public Access Defibrillator (PAD).
    3. The patient shows signs of recovery (e.g. starts breathing).
    4. You become too exhausted.
    5. The area becomes too dangerous to continue.

Children (older than one)

  1. Tilt the child's head back to open the airway by placing one (1) hand on their forehead and gently lifting the chin. Check for any visible obstructions in the mouth and nose and remove them if possible.
  2. Pinch their nose and seal your mouth over theirs. Blow steadily and firmly into their mouth while checking to see if their chest rises. Give five (5) initial rescue breaths to children older than one.
  3. Place the heel of one (1) hand on the centre of their chest between the nipples and push down about one-third of the chest diameter (e.g. five centimetres or two inches). You may need to use two hands on a large child to improve the quality (depth) of chest compressions.
  4. Continue with cycles of thirty (30) chest compressions and two (2) rescue breaths following the general guidelines for administering CPR.

Infants and Toddlers (less than one)

  1. Tilt the infant's head back to open the airway by placing one (1) hand on their forehead and gently lifting the chin. Check for any visible obstructions in the mouth and nose and remove them if you can do so without pushing them further inside.
  2. Seal your mouth over their nose and mouth. Blow steadily and firmly while checking to see if their chest rises. Give five (5) initial rescue breaths to infants and toddlers younger than one.
  3. Place two (2) fingers in the middle of their chest between the nipples and push down about one-third of the chest diameter (four centimetres or 1.5 inches). You may need to use the heel of one hand on a large infant to improve the quality (depth) of chest compressions.
  4. After 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 a minute, give 2 rescue breaths.
  5. Continue with cycles of thirty (30) chest compressions and two (2) rescue breaths following the general guidelines for administering CPR.

Related Help Guides

Note: This short video (presented by the American Heart Association) contains live training examples of how to do hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation.


CPR First Aid Guidelines for Lay Rescuers in the United Kingdom

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