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CPR On a Child – Steps to Perform to Save a Child’s Life After a Life-threatening Accident

Parental CPR Responsibility

The arrival of the hotter summer months and the return to the aquatic environment is usually accompanied by a sharp increase in drowning or near-drowning incidents, especially involving children of the under 5 years age bracket.

The majority of these episodes occur in backyard swimming pools, and it is often a family member who discovers the child face down in the water – a scene which is of course horrifying for the person concerned.

When supervision and barriers fail, and learning to swim does not provide the swimmer with adequate drowning-prevention skills, emergency procedures (including CPR) offer the only other remaining life-saving means.

CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

This life-saving technique that involves chest compressions and rescue breaths to help keep blood circulating to vital organs and provide oxygen to the lungs. In incidents of drowning,

CPR is not designed to remove water from the lungs. We have all heard a horror drowning story, and no parent wants to believe that this could happen to them – could this disbelief be the reason why estimates suggest that only a small percentage of parents are trained to perform CPR on their children?

In preparation for the birth of a child, many parents undertake prenatal classes, and parents often participate in parent education classes designed to assist them in raising their child.

It seems ironic then, that many parents don’t bother to attend one of the readily available 4-hr CPR courses that would potentially increase their child’s chance of surviving a life-threatening accident. CPR has proven to be effective in treating a child or infant whose heart has stopped beating or whose breathing has ceased due to a head or neck injury, choking, drowning, electrocution, infection, or an allergic reaction.

CPR saves lives, so being prepared and having CPR training is vital

Clearly, learning CPR is not merely a drowning-prevention strategy. CPR’s success is determined by prompt intervention and timely administration following the discovery of an unconscious patient, and it could mean the difference between life and death or serious brain damage. Remember, an ambulance response can take at least 10 minutes or longer depending on where you are situated.

Steps for Performing CPR on a Child

Whilst written information is no substitute for attending a practical CPR training course, remembering the following steps in an emergency could help a parent save their child’s life:

  1. Remove the child from the dangerous environment at once. Send a bystander to dial 000 (or 112 from a mobile). If alone, keep yelling for help (remember that it might be the 20th time you yell that someone hears you!) while immediately commencing emergency response before calling an ambulance.
  2. Check for a response by gently tapping, shaking or shouting at the patient to determine consciousness. If there is no response, try to clear the airway by turning child onto the side, and sweep a finger across their tongue to clear any debris (i.e. vomit) that might be blocking their airway.
  3. Returning the patient onto their back, deliver 2 initial breaths. For an infant below 12 months old, this would be 2 puffs of air using cheeks only, covering the mouth and nose to create a good seal, and exhaling for 1 second (no head tilt). For a child between 1-8 years of age, tilt their head back slightly, and provide 2 x half breaths via the mouth only.
  4. Look for the chest rise and listen for breathing. If the patient is breathing, place in the side recovery position and wait for help.
  5. If the patient is not breathing, feel for a pulse, and if you find no pulse after 5 seconds commence chest compressions at a rate of 30 compressions to 2 rescue breaths repeating in a 2 minute cycle.
  6. Chest compressions for an infant comprise placing 2 fingers in the centre of the baby’s chest while pressing down to a depth of 1/3 of their chest depth. As a baby’s heart rate is faster than a child’s, compressions are required at a rate of 2 per second.
  7. Chest compressions for a child still require compressions to a depth 1/3 of the child’s chest depth, however this should be done with 1 hand rather than 2 fingers.
  8. Check for a pulse every 2 minutes, and if there is still no evidence of a pulse keep going!
  9. If the patient is a baby and you are alone and need to call 000, take the baby with you to the phone so you are able to continue compressions/breaths
  10. Remember a drowning victim may have ingested a lot of water which in many cases may be vomited back up during CPR. If this is the case, clear the airway and check breathing. If the patient is not breathing, continue CPR.

For parents and carers, the idea of not being able to assist a child in the even of an emergency is terrifying. Child care workers, school teachers and baby sitters/nannies are expected to be trained in CPR for this reason.

I encourage all parents to undertake a CPR training course.

Parents are reluctant to leave their children with someone who couldn’t assist in saving the life of their child should the situation arise. As it is the parent that spends most time with their children and, therefore, it is the parent that is likely to be in attendance in a life-threatening situation. It is the parent more than anybody that should be familiar with essential life-saving CPR skills.