Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) –

CPR means cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is an important life-saving technique that can be used in emergencies. CPR can save a person’s life and prevent brain and organ damage. You should perform CPR in an emergency situation when a person is not breathing or their heart is not beating. These scenarios can be scary, but a reaction is better than no reaction. Even if you are not trained in CPR, you can help by performing chest compressions.

CPR is a skill taught in certified first aid training courses. In addition to CPR, you may learn how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). This is a device that sends electrical currents to start your heart. You must retake the course every 2 years.

Path to better health

In an emergency, it is important to start CPR. Without it, a person in trouble can die in 5 to 10 minutes. Here are some questions to ask yourself before starting CPR:

  • Is the person conscious?If you think he is unconscious, touch him or talk to him to see if he responds. A person who is not breathing or whose heart is not beating faints immediately.
  • Is the environment safe?It is best to start CPR right away, but only if you are not in danger.
  • How many people are present?If you are the only person, start CPR first. Call 911 after 5 cycles of CPR. If there are two or more people there, one of them should call 911 immediately. This allows another person to start CPR.
  • Is an AED available?If so, follow the instructions to deliver a shock and then begin CPR.

CPR has three stages. The American Heart Association (AHA) uses CAB to remember order. What represents coppressions, TOairway, and bbreathing.

Compressions. Chest compressions stimulate the heart. The forceful pressure gets the blood pumping again. The person who needs CPR should be face up on a flat, firm surface. Kneel next to the person’s body. To begin compressions on an adult, place your hands, palms down, in the center of the person’s chest. Put one hand on top of the other. Keep your elbows straight and lean directly over the person. Use your body weight to push down about 2 inches. Repeat this movement at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute. That’s one compression for each beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive.”

To begin compressions on a baby, place two fingers in the center of the chest. Push down about 1.5 inches. Repeat this movement at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute. Again, this is compression for each beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive.”

If you are not trained in CPR, you should only do chest compressions. If you are trained, you can move on to the next two stages of CPR.

Airway and breathing. After 30 chest compressions, look for signs of normal breathing. Listen to the person’s chest and mouth for about 5 to 10 seconds. If he is still not breathing, his airways need to be opened. Tilt the person’s head back slightly and lift the chin. Close your nostrils. This creates a seal to allow air to pass in one direction. For an adult, give 2 rescue breaths into the person’s mouth. For babies, give them gentle breaths. For both adults and babies, each breath should last 1 second and not be too strong. You can breathe through the person’s nose if their mouth is affected.

Check again for signs of normal breathing. If the person is still unconscious, start chest compressions again. The stages of compressions, airways and breathing are equivalent to one cycle. You can repeat the full CPR cycle 5 times, which should take about 2 minutes.

Things to consider

CPR has risks. Pressing on someone’s chest can cause injury. The person may suffer chest pain, broken ribs, or collapsed lungs. After CPR, they may need help breathing or may need to stay in the hospital.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Where can I learn to do CPR?
  • Where can I learn how to use an AED?
  • What are the scenarios in which I should perform CPR?
  • Do the stages of CPR vary for adults, adolescents, and infants?
  • Can I give CPR to someone who has signed a DNR (do not resuscitate)?


American Heart Association: 11 Things You Should Know to Save a Life with CPR

American Heart Association: CPR and First Aid, Emergency Cardiovascular Care, Find a Course

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: CPR

Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your primary care doctor to find out if this information applies to you and for more information on this topic.

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