COVID-19 and administering CPR

by | Jul 8, 2020

In these crazy times of COVID-19, CPR remains a vital life-saving technique when someone experiences cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to stop beating unexpectedly resulting in the victim becoming unresponsive with no heartbeat. This is why you need to call 911 immediately start chest compressions as soon as possible

Since the Corona Virus is believed to spread primarily through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bystanders may be concerned what the risk is to perform CPR.

Image displaying emergency sign

The risk of getting COVID-19 through CPR may also depend on the prevalence of the virus where a person lives and if the victim is known, or suspected, to have it. As the pandemic evolves, to minimize potential risk of transmission, both the American Heart Association and Red Cross recommend hands-only CPR for adult and teenage cardiac arrest victims. Hands-only CPR means skipping rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) and giving continuous chest compressions until help arrives. Use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if available. Hands-only CPR has been shown to be as effective as CPR with rescue breaths.

If a mask, or cloth covering, is available, both organizations recommend putting it on the victim to further minimize potential transmission since there is a possibility that compressions may cause respiratory droplets to be expelled. If a victim is suspected to have COVID-19 the Red Cross recommends bystanders performing CPR wear as much protection as possible such as a mask, eye protection and disposable gloves.

According to the American Heart Association, In one year alone 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest. CPR when given immediately, can double or triple chances of survival.

Often a cardiac arrest victim will be someone a bystander knows, a friend, family member or neighbor. Nearly 70% of cardiac arrests that occur outside a hospital happen at home. People who live in the same household may be optimal CPR providers since they likely know the risk of transmission or have both already been exposed to COVID-19.

Although a cardiac arrest victim may gasp or stop breathing, there is still oxygen in the blood in the minutes after a person collapse. The most important step is the oxygen make it flow.

Then, if available, a bystander can use an AED, which affects the electrical malfunction.

Compressions keep the brain alive and the AED fixes the underlying problem! 


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