Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a series of steps to help a person who is not responding and has stopped breathing. CPR helps deliver oxygen rich blood to the body tissue when the body is not able to do this on its own.
Reasons for Procedure
CPR is given to a child who is not breathing. This may be due to:
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- Cerebrovascular accident (bleeding in the brain)
- Electrical shocks and lightning strikes
- Severe infection
- Drug overdose
- Excessive bleeding
The outcome will depend on the cause and how soon effective CPR was started. Many are unable to regain a normal heartbeat after it has stopped.
It is possible that ribs will fracture or break during chest compressions. This is more likely in children with weakened bones. Other complications are also possible, such as lung puncture. However, there is greater risk of death if CPR is delayed or not done correctly.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Check to see if the collapsed or unconscious child is responsive. Tap the child and ask: “Are you OK?”
Description of the Procedure
Follow these steps if the child does not respond:
- If someone is with you, have that person call for emergency medical services right away. That person should also get an automatic external defibrillator (AED) if one is available. An AED is a device that delivers electric shocks to the heart. If you are alone, do CPR for about 2 minutes before calling for medical help and getting the AED.
If the child is not breathing or only gasping, begin CPR by doing chest compressions:
- Place the palm of your hand on the lower half of the chest directly over the sternum. One or two hands may be used.
- Straighten your arms and lock your elbows. Begin pressing down in a straight motion. The compressions should be at least 2 inches deep.
- Push hard and fast at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.
- Allow the chest to rise completely between compressions.
- Minimize interruption between compressions.
If you are trained in CPR, give 2 rescue breaths after 30 compressions. To give rescue breaths:
- Open the airway by placing one hand on the forehead and lifting the chin with your other hand.
- Gently tilt the head backward. Pinch the child's nose and cover their mouth with yours.
- Breathe twice into their mouth until you see the chest rise. Breaths should be about 1 second each.
- After giving 2 rescue breaths, do 30 compressions. Continue the cycle of 2 breaths and 30 compressions.
- If you are not trained in CPR, continue doing the chest compressions without giving rescue breaths.
- If another person is present, take turns doing the chest compressions to avoid getting tired. If two people are giving CPR, the ratio of chest compressions to breaths is 15 compressions and 2 breaths.
Give CPR until the AED is brought to the scene or until:
- Medical help arrives
- It becomes unsafe to continue
- The child regains consciousness and is able to breathe
To use the AED:
- Turn the AED on.
- Attach the pads.
- Follow the prompts. If advised, deliver the shock. If the shock is not advised, the AED will tell you to resume CPR.
How Long Will It Take?
The length of time for CPR depends on the reason it needs to be done and the response time of medical help.
Will It Hurt?
Chest discomfort is common after CPR. Medicine and home care can help.
The emergency team will take over care when they arrive.
Children will need to be taken to the hospital for evaluation following CPR.
It will take a few weeks for the chest discomfort to go away. It will take longer if there were complications during CPR. Healing time will also vary based on the reason that CPR was done. Physical activity may need to be limited.
Call Your Child's Doctor
Call the doctor if your child is unresponsive. If someone is with you, have that person call for emergency medical services right away. If you are alone, do CPR for about 2 minutes before calling for medical help.
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://www.heartandstroke.com
CPR steps. American Red Cross website. Available at: https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/performing-cpr/cpr-steps. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Pediatric basic life support (BLS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/pediatric-basic-life-support-bls. Accessed September 3, 2021.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD
- Review Date: 07/2021
- Update Date: 09/03/2021