American Heart Association CPR Guidelines


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is easy to learn and can save the life of a person in cardiac distress. While CPR techniques for adults, children and infants differ slightly, you will find it it easier to learn how to care for children after you learn the proper protocol for treating adults.


Before attempting CPR, try to wake the unconscious victim. The most effective method for doing so is to rub your knuckles along the unconscious person's sternum. If the person wakes up, simply call 911 to obtain medical treatment. If he does not wake up, call 911 and then begin standard CPR.

Checking for a Pulse

The old guidelines put forth by the American Heart Association for CPR indicated that the rescuer should attempt to determine if an individual has a pulse before beginning CPR. The American Heart Association has now deleted this step from the protocol because of the difficulty the average layperson or bystander has in locating a pulse. Even medical professionals are no longer encouraged to waste time attempting to locate a pulse in an emergency situation.

Instead, look at the body for chest movement to see if there is air flow coming from the victim's nose or mouth. If the victim is breathing, move on to chest compressions. If he is not breathing, start with rescue breathing and then move on to chest compressions.

Rescue Breathing

In a victim who is not breathing, begin rescue breathing techniques. Tilt the victim's head back by lifting his chin. Pinch his nose and seal the victim's mouth with your own. Breathe deeply enough into the victim's mouth to make his chest rise. After his chest falls, repeat the breath a second time.

Newer guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association stipulate that anyone without formal CPR training should skip rescue breathing and begin doing hands-only chest compressions until help arrives.

Chest Compressions

Place the palm heel of your hand in the center of the victim's chest, directly over the tip of his sternum. Put your other hand on top of the first and lace your fingers together. Use your hands and body weight to compress the chest approximately one and one half to two inches, and allow the chest to move back to its natural position before you start the next compression.

Continuing CPR

After completing your first set of chest compressions, repeat rescue breathing techniques and then repeat chest compressions again. Continue alternating techniques until 2 minutes have passed. Check if the victim is breathing, and if he is still not breathing, start the cycle again. Continue until professional assistance arrives.

Child CPR

If you need to perform CPR on a child over the age of one, you should follow all of the same protocols above for assessment. If the child is not breathing when assessed you should not immediately call 911 (though if you are not alone you can send someone else to do so). You should immediately begin rescue breathing and chest compressions. Again, if you are not formally trained in CPR, you should skip rescue breathing and immediately begin chest compressions.

Chest compressions for a child should be approximately one and one-half inches deep. Continue the chest compression and rescue breathing process for two minutes. If you are alone, call 911 after the first cycle and then continue the process.

Infant CPR

Because of their small size, you may find it more difficult to perform CPR on an infant under the age of one. Place the baby on a flat, hard surface and check for breathing. If your young victim is not breathing, give him two rescue breaths as per normal protocol. Again, if you are not formally trained in CPR, you should skip rescue breathing and immediately begin chest compressions.

After rescue breathing, begin chest compressions. To do chest compressions on an infant you will not use your palm heel but two fingers instead. Place your fingers on the breastbone, directly between his nipples. Push the chest down about 1 inch and repeat the compression 30 times. Continue to apply rescue breathing, chest compressions, and assess the child at the same rate you would any other victim.

Make sure you stop after the first series of rescue breathing and chest compressions to call 911 if you are alone.

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