When many of us were kids, we would daydream about being a superhero someday when we grew up. We imagined it would take super strength or x-ray vision or maybe a bite from a radioactive animal. But in truth, it only takes two steps to be a superhero.
Hands-only CPR can make the difference between someone dying from a sudden cardiac arrest and surviving to see another day. Knowing the two simple steps of this procedure may help you save a life someday and become a true superhero. Read on to answer the question, “What is hands-only CPR?” and learn when and how to use it.
Basics of CPR
Even if we don’t know how to do it, most of us are familiar with the general concept of CPR in the same way we’re aware of the Abdominal Thrusts Maneuver. We see people in movies performing CPR on people who suddenly collapse in the street, heroically pumping away on their chests. And the truth is performing CPR on an unresponsive person can legitimately save their life.
In essence, CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, keeps blood moving through the body to keep the organs and brain active until the heart can start pumping on its own. Chest compressions force blood out of the heart by squishing it between the spine and the sternum. This keeps the brain and other organs at least partly oxygenated until help arrives.
Benefits of CPR
It’s hard to understate the importance of CPR in an emergency situation. Once the heart stops pumping, oxygen flow to the brain stops, and brain cells begin dying. The brain can survive about six minutes without oxygen; on average, it takes about eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
Performing CPR can keep a person alive until medical help can get to them. In the event that their heart stops, starting immediate CPR can reduce the amount of brain damage and other lasting effects they’ll have from the incident. And even if they aren’t in cardiac arrest, CPR can start them responding and breathing normally again.
What Is Hands-Only CPR
When most of us think of CPR, we picture a person pushing on someone’s chest and stopping every so often to breathe into their mouth. But recently medical professionals have started encouraging people to do hands-only CPR in an emergency situation.
Hands-only CPR leaves out the mouth-to-mouth part of the procedure and just focuses on the chest compressions. There are two steps: call 911 and begin fast, hard chest compressions. This still gets blood to the organs in the body, even if it is only partly oxygenated.
Why the Switch
There are a number of reasons for the switch to hands-only CPR, but the biggest one is it’s easier to remember. In an emergency situation, people tend to panic, and it can be hard to remember how often you’re supposed to do the breaths. This may lead to people refusing to do CPR at all, and chest compressions are better than nothing.
There is also limited benefit to the mouth-to-mouth part of CPR. In general, most of the air you exhale is carbon dioxide, which our bodies can’t use. There may also be a risk of transmitting infectious diseases, and the most important thing is to just keep that blood pumping through the veins.
How to Do Hands-Only CPR
With hands-only CPR, there are only two steps to remember: call 911 and start chest compressions. If you see a person has collapsed, check on them and see if they’re responsive; if they aren’t, get them rolled over onto their back. Place your hand in the center of their chest, put your other hand on top of it, and start pressing down firmly.
You want to time your compressions to be between 100 and 120 beats per minute. One easy way to remember this is to do your compressions along to the rhythm of The Bee Gees’s “Staying Alive” or “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce and Jay-Z. Continue compressions until help arrives or the person starts showing obvious signs of life.
When to Use CPR
If a person collapses and you’re not sure whether to use CPR, it’s always better safe than sorry. The person may not be in cardiac arrest, but you can’t take the chance that they are. CPR won’t hurt, and it may save their life.
If you see someone collapse, go check on them and ask if they’re okay. If they have someone with them, ask if they have ever collapsed before. If you get no response or the person says no, begin CPR immediately.
Other Steps to Take
While you’re doing chest compressions, you need to remember the other piece of hands-only CPR: call 911. You may not have time to do this yourself. In this case, point to a specific person nearby and say, “You call 911.”
It’s important to pick a specific person to make the 911 call. When we’re in crowded or stressful situations and general orders are being shouted, we tend to assume someone else will take care of it. Without a specific command, no one may call the ambulance, and the person you’re helping could lose precious time.
Learn More About Emergency Care
Knowing how to do hands-only CPR is a skill everyone should have. Hopefully you’ll never have to do it, but if the situation arises, knowing the answer to the question, “What is hands-only CPR?” could save a life.
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