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Alternative Names Return to topRescue breathing and chest compressions - child; Resuscitation - cardiopulmonary - child; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation - child
Definition Return to top
CPR is a lifesaving procedure that is performed when a child's breathing or heartbeat has stopped, as in cases of drowning, suffocation, choking, or injuries. CPR is a combination of:
Permanent brain damage or death can occur within minutes if a child's blood flow stops. Therefore, you must continue these procedures until the child's heartbeat and breathing return, or trained medical help arrives.
Considerations Return to top
CPR can be lifesaving, but it is best performed by those who have been trained in an accredited CPR course. The procedures described here are not a substitute for CPR training.
All parents and those who take care of children should learn infant and child CPR if they haven't already. This jewel of knowledge is something no parent should be without. (See www.americanheart.org for classes near you.)
Time is very important when dealing with an unconscious child who is not breathing. Permanent brain damage begins after only 4 minutes without oxygen, and death can occur as soon as 4 - 6 minutes later.
Machines called automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can be found in many public places, and are available for home use. These machines have pads or paddles to place on the chest during a life-threatening emergency. They use computers to automatically check the heart rhythm and give a sudden shock if, and only if, that shock is needed to get the heart back into the right rhythm.
When using an AED, follow the instructions exactly.
Causes Return to top
In children, major reasons that heartbeat and breathing stop include:
Symptoms Return to top
First Aid Return to top
The following steps are based on instructions from the American Heart Association.
If the child starts breathing again, place him or her in the recovery position. Periodically recheck for breathing until help arrives.
DO NOT Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Prevention Return to top
Unlike adults, who may have a heart attack, most children need CPR because of a preventable accident. With this in mind, remember these simple measures:
Never underestimate what a child can do. Play it safe, and assume the child is more mobile and more dexterous than you thought possible. Think ahead to what the child may get into next, and be ready. Climbing and squirming are to be expected. Always use safety straps on high chairs and strollers.
Choose age-appropriate toys. Do not give small children toys that are heavy or fragile. Inspect toys for small or loose parts, sharp edges, points, loose batteries, and other hazards. Keep toxic chemicals and cleaning solutions safely stored in childproof cabinets.
Create a safe environment and supervise children carefully, particularly around water and near furniture. Dangers such as electrical outlets, stove tops, and medicine cabinets are attractive to small children.
References Return to top
Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee, Subcommittees, and Task Forces of the American Heart Association. 2005 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Circulation. 2005;112(24 Suppl):IV1-IV203.
Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2002:83.Update Date: 10/5/2008 Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.