Every year there are more than 350,000 cardiac arrests in the United States. When your heart stops, breathing and blood flow quit as well. Vital organs are deprived of oxygen. Within five minutes, brain cells begin to die. Every minute that goes by, reduces a heart attack victims chances of survival by 10%.
Only 46% of heart attack victims get the life-saving help they need before emergency services arrive. Fortunately, you can learn a life-saving technique that can double or triple their chances of survival; and it only takes a minute to learn.
The life-saving procedure I’m talking about is CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But it’s not the method that’s been taught in classes since the 1960s.
If you’ve ever taken a traditional CPR course, you know it involves several steps. Not only can it be hard to remember everything in an emergency, but there’s also the “ick” factor. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is one of the steps you had to do before you could start chest compressions.
Nearly half of the people surveyed said they felt uncomfortable breathing into a stranger’s mouth. What might have caused a feeling of discomfort before can be life-threatening during a global pandemic.
In 2008, the American Heart Association revised its guidelines for CPR. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is out. Now there are just two steps and it’s called hands-only CPR.
1) Call 911.
2) Pump the chest until emergency help arrives.
Position your hands with the heel of one hand in the center of the chest. Place the other hand on top of that and interlace your fingers.
Keep your arms straight, then push down hard and fast. Use your body weight. You should be compressing the chest down two inches each time, around 120 uninterrupted compressions per minute. You’re now pumping the heart and forcing the blood to circulate.
One-hundred twenty compressions a minute is about the speed you get if you move to the beat of the Bee Gees’ classic disco song “Stayin’ Alive.” If you’re not familiar with that song, several others can work. A few options include: “Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake, “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce & Jay Z, “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay, “Rock This Town” by Stray Cats and “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd.
Studies show hands-only CPR is just as effective as conventional CPR during the first few minutes. It works because when someone stops breathing, they still have oxygen in their lungs and bloodstream. When you start chest compressions. it moves that oxygen-filled blood to the heart and brain, giving them precious extra minutes till help arrives.
Don’t be afraid to jump in and do it. You won’t make things worse. Without your help, there’s a very real chance the victim will die. If the person begins to breathe, stop giving compressions. Have them lie on their side and rest until medical help arrives.
Many businesses and public spaces have AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) to shock a heart back into action. However, if an AED doesn’t rouse the person, you need to give CPR. Don’t stop until an emergency responder arrives or the situation is too unsafe to continue.
There are two situations where mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may still be necessary.
If the victim has drowned, then rescue breaths should be performed. Before you start chest compressions, give five initial rescue breaths.
If the victim is a child or a baby, rescue breaths should be performed. Babies and children are more likely to suffer from respiratory or breathing problems than cardiac problems. That means the oxygen levels in their blood may be low. Five initial rescue breaths should be given before starting chest compressions.
Learning traditional CPR with mouth-to-mouth breathing is still recommended for anyone who’s going to be around vulnerable populations. But if you haven’t taken a class or simply can’t remember what to do, start hands-only CPR and save a life.
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