Learning Child CPR Can Save Your Child's Life

Maureen Wise
June 15, 2017

Being prepared is second nature to a parent, but are you ready to act if your child needs CPR?

As a parent, you can never be too prepared. You've already got the extra pack of tissues and travel hand sanitizer at the ready for everyday messes. You've got a full change of clothes for your kids in the car. But have you prepared for a true emergency? Though you'll hopefully never need to use it, knowing child CPR can save your kid's life.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is used to restart lungs and hearts that have stopped working by compressing the chest and blowing into airways. The goal is to keep oxygenated blood moving through the brain and lungs until the heart starts beating again. According to Don Lauritzen, the communications officer at the American Red Cross, more than 2.5 million people a year learn lifesaving skills by taking Red Cross First Aid, CPR and AED classes.

"It's more important to do something in a crisis situation, even if using imperfect form, than to do nothing. Some life saving action is better than the alternative," says Dr. Joseph W. Rossano, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council subcommittee on resuscitation and an associate professor of pediatrics/cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

How to Perform CPR on a Child

These instructions are for children over one and are based on those of the Red Cross. CPR should be performed if an individual is not breathing, has no pulse and is unconscious.

  1. Check the scene for safety.
  2. Try to wake the child. Shout and tap her gently.
  3. Tell a bystander to call 911. Tell everyone to stay back.
  4. Have someone help you lay the child on a solid surface. Check for breathing.
  5. Tilt the child's head back and open her mouth. Pinch nose closed. Cover the mouth with your lips and give two rescue breaths, each about one second long.
  6. Scan for severe bleeding and report to bystanders who can tell emergency professionals.
  7. Administer 30 chest compressions in the middle of the chest, pushing about two inches into the chest cavity. Place your hands on top of each other and use the heel of your hand. Push hard and fast, says Dr. Rossano. It's faster than you might expect. Do these compressions at 100 beats per minute -- "to the beat of "Stayin' Alive!" Dr. Rossano says.
  8. Continue with two rescue breaths and 30 chest compressions until breathing restarts, professional help arrives, an AED is ready for use or the scene becomes unsafe. Dr. Rossano reminds us that it's very easy to get tired quickly when performing CPR, so switching off with someone else can help. To see child CPR in action, check out this video demonstration.

Prevent Choking

Choking is a common reason to carry out CPR in children under five, but it can often be prevented. "Food is the most common cause for choking incidents for both adults and children," says Lauritzen. He says that for a conscious person, coughing is the most effective means for dislodging food, but CPR should be used if the person becomes unconscious. Between breaths and chest compressions, check for the dislodged food in the mouth.

To prevent choking, be sure your kid's food is cut to an age-appropriate size and that toys are always larger than their mouths and in good working order. Avoid foods like hot dogs, grapes, nuts and hard candies, which the American Academy of Pediatrics cites as common choking hazards. Teach children to fully chew their food, keep kids seated while eating and clean floors often to prevent small children from picking up items that may have fallen to the ground.

Other Reasons to Perform CPR

"The most likely need for CPR in children and infants is due to respiratory distress and arrest which then will cause the heart to stop," says Lauritzen. Reasons to perform child CPR include drowning, electrical shock, head trauma or suffocation. Dr. Rossano explains, "Cardiac arrest is the most common reason to perform CPR on any person, and it usually occurs in the home." Additionally, he adds that infants have high occurrences of stopped breathing incidents and CPR should be administered at that time.

Lauritzen encourages everyone to make use of the Red Cross's First Aid app. "It gives you expert advice whenever and wherever you need it," he says. There are instructions not only for CPR but also tips for treating burns, choking and other crisis situations.

It doesn't take much to get certified in CPR and be prepared. Be ready for anything with your kids, even the very worst -- learn CPR.

To learn more about preparing yourself for child CPR, check out How to Get First Aid and CPR Training.

Maureen Wise is a writer who focuses on parenting and green topics based near Cleveland, Ohio. She has written for Piccolo Universe, EcoWatch, Tom's of Maine, Care.com, eHow Science and others. After writing this article, Wise took Don Lauritzen's advice and downloaded the American Red Cross's First Aid app - just in case.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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