No one likes to think about it, but in a bad circumstance, children will need CPR and rescue breaths just as critically as an adult. Even a rudimentary knowledge of CPR could save that child’s life. However, it’s equally important to be aware of the differences between CPR for adults and children. (Infant CPR requires drastically different measures and is thus a topic for another day.) Not all CPR methods are identical.
The default CPR lesson for most people applies to fully grown or adult patients. A small child, on the other hand, requires a slightly different form of CPR. Adult-oriented CPR performed on a child could ultimately cause more harm than good. Before you decide you’re confident enough to offer help to a child in need, make sure you know how to truly help them.
Does the Victim Need CPR?
First, assess whether CPR is truly necessary. This part of the process is nearly identical to assessing an adult’s situation. Make sure you can safely approach the child (for instance, make sure there are no downed power lines or other hazards nearby that could potentially incapacitate you too). Once you’ve reached the child, gently tap their shoulder and loudly ask, “Are you okay?” Use this chance as well to take note of any prominent issues such as bleeding.
If the victim doesn’t respond, place your ear over the child’s mouth and nose. If you don’t feel their breath on your cheek and can’t hear them gasping, they need CPR immediately. Call 911 or ask a bystander to call while you begin.
Pro Tip: Check the child’s neck and wrists for any medical alert dog tags that may indicate an underlying medical issue. When emergency services arrive, point it out to them as well.
CPR on a Child
Place the heel of one hand at the very center of the chest, over the breastbone. You can press with both hands if you feel it’s necessary. Remember, a child’s ribcage is more fragile than an adult’s, so you don’t need as much pressure to adequately perform chest compressions. As you compress the chest, try to be slightly more gentle.
At the rate of 100 compressions per minute, perform 30 compressions on the child’s chest. Allow their chest to completely rise between compressions to simulate breathing. Be careful not to compress the chest further than 2 inches, as this increases the likelihood of breaking several ribs.
Rescue Breaths on a Child
Carefully tilt the child’s head backward to open the airway. Pinch the nose closed, cover the mouth completely with your own, and give two breaths, each one second long. Watch for the chest to rise completely as you administer rescue breaths. Give two rescue breaths after each round of 30 chest compressions.
A note of caution: if you suspect the child has a head or neck injury, DO NOT TILT THEIR HEAD as it will only worsen the problem. Perform rescue breaths as best you can or stick to hands-only CPR in this circumstance.
After 5 cycles or approximately 2 minutes of CPR and rescue breaths, find and use the nearest AED if emergency services have not arrived yet.
Saving a Child’s Life
Children can be just as vulnerable to cardiac problems or emergency situations as adults. Unfortunately, CPR designed for an adult’s body to withstand can only result in more damage to an already endangered child. Knowing the difference could help you save a child’s life.