Knowing CPR is an essential life-saving skill. CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and it’s a lifesaving technique that can be used when somebody’s heart is not beating or they have stopped breathing.
CPR could save the life of someone who’s drowning or having a heart attack. Sadly, this may be a more common occurrence than you think. 210 people die from heart disease every day in South Africa, and drowning is South Africa’s leading cause of accidental death but these fatalities could be prevented with CPR so it’s a skill that everyone should learn.
The 4 – 10 November is National Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) week, to mark this important occasion, we explain how to give CPR so you can learn how to save a life. Anyone can give CPR, you don’t need to be a medical professional, which is even more reason that everyone learns how to do it.
Before you give CPR
If you’re not a medical professional, you may be nervous to give CPR. However, it’s better to attempt CPR than do nothing at all.
This advice applies to adults – there is some variance in techniques used for infants or small children.
Before you carry out CPR, you need to ask the following questions:
- Is the environment safe? Stay calm and remember to be aware of hazards, such as road traffic or a fire.
- Is the person conscious or unconscious? If they appear unconscious, tap or shake their shoulder and ask, “Are you ok?” Speak loudly and clearly.
- If there is no response and you are with someone else, one person should start CPR immediately while another calls an ambulance. If you are alone, phone for an ambulance before beginning CPR. However, if someone has suffocated, say from drowning, carry out CPR for one minute and then call for an ambulance.
Once you’ve addressed the above pointers, you’re ready to give CPR.
How to give CPR
Compressions are used to restore blood circulation. Here are the steps involved:
- Lie the person on their back on a firm surface and kneel next to them. However, if you think the person may have suffered a spinal injury, don’t move them as you could cause more damage.
- Then, place the heel of one of your hands on their breastbone at the centre of their chest. Put your other hand on top of your first hand and interlock your fingers. Make sure that your elbows are straight and position your shoulders directly above your hands.
- Use your entire body weight (not just your arms) to push hard on the chest by 5-6cm.
- Keep your hands on their chest, release the compression and allow their chest to return to its original position.
- Repeat these compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute until medical staff take over or there are signs of movement.
If you are confidently trained in CPR, move on to the airways and breathing steps below. If not, stick to uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 a minute, rather than advance to the airway and breathing steps.
If you’re trained and confident in CPR and have performed 30 chest compressions, check the person’s airways:
- Place the palm of your hand on the person’s forehead and gently tilt their head back. With your other hand, lift the chin forward to open the airway. This is called the head-tilt, chin-lift manoeuvre. Again, don’t move them if you suspect they have a neck or spinal injury.
- Check for breathing for no more than 10 seconds. Look for chest motion, listen for normal breath sounds and feel for the person’s breath on your cheek and ear.
- If they’re gasping or not breathing normally begin step three.
This can be referred to as rescue breathing, mouth-to-mouth breathing or even mouth-to-nose breathing (in cases where a mouth cannot be opened or is seriously injured).
- Pinch the nostrils shut and cover the person’s mouth with yours. This makes a seal.
- Give a rescue breath – lasting one second – and see if their chest rises. If it does, give a second breath. If it doesn’t, repeat the head-tilt, chin-lift manoeuvre and give the second breath.
- Then, give 30 chest compressions. 30 compressions followed by two rescue breaths is considered one cycle.
These CPR steps should be continued until there are signs of movement or medical staff can take over.