Most of us will never have to save a baby’s life but, even in the most vigilant households, accidents can happen in a split second. And in that split second, parents and caregivers who have learned CPR will be very glad they did. Think of CPR as an insurance policy: it gives you peace of mind, but you hope you will never have to use it.
CPR – or cardiopulmonary resuscitation – is a lifesaving method that gets the heart and lungs working after someone has experienced a lifethreatening trauma. All emergency personnel know how to perform it, but in an emergency situation, every second counts. “Most areas of the country are wellserved by professional help, but it can take four to 10 minutes for that help to arrive,” says Les Johnson, CEO of the Federal District Council for St. John’s Ambulance in Ottawa. “The problem is that after four minutes of not breathing the brain cells start to die and it’s harder to resuscitate someone. What you do in those first four to six minutes makes a huge difference.”
The basic method of CPR – chest compressions followed by ventilating the lungs – has not changed significantly in 100 years. But infants require a slightly different variation than adults or older children (see sidebar for details). “With babies and children, often times the cause of cardiac arrest is not heart disease, it’s because they’ve stopped breathing. So ventilations are still very important when doing CPR on them.”
When do you perform CPR? Any time a person is unconscious or not breathing. “We don’t even check for a pulse any more,” says Les. “Do a quick visual check and if they are not breathing or if breathing is laboured, begin CPR immediately. If they are unconscious but breathing, put them on their side and stay with them until the ambulance arrives.”
St. John’s Ambulance trains more than 600,000 Canadians every year in CPR, in 40 branches across the country. Take a CPR class, whether through them, the Canadian Red Cross, or another organization (go online or ask your doctor or local hospital to find a course near you). It is critical for anyone taking care of children.
“All families should have some basic CPR, whether it’s for baby or grandpa, because statistics show that 80 per cent of first aid is done on people you know. There’s not enough CPR being done in this country. If there is an emergency situation, you need to be prepared to help,” says Les.
Infant CPR 101
- If an infant has had an accident or is injured, check first to see if he or she is responsive by tapping the soles of the feet. If he or she responds, do not begin CPR.
- call 911!
- If there is no response from the child, if he or she is not breathing or is struggling to breathe, check inside the mouth for an object. If you see something, remove it gently by sweeping with your pinky finger. If breathing does not resume, begin CPR.
- Make sure child is on a firm, flat surface.
- For an infant (any child one year old or younger), place two fingertips on the infant’s breastbone just below the nipples.
- Use two fingers to press down firmly on the breastbone.
- Compress firmly 30 times. Push hard and push fast.
- Make a tight seal over both the mouth and the nose.
- Give two breaths.
- Continue cycles of 30 compressions and two breaths until help arrives.
- If you are untrained or unsure of your skills, don’t give up. Give compression-only
- CPR – pushing hard and fast at a rate of at least 100 times per minute.
Adapted from St. John’s Ambulance. Visit their website at sja.ca for more information.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2012.