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Learning About Rescue Breathing and CPR for Children


CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is pushing down on a person's chest and breathing into their mouth. It's used in emergencies when someone's heart stops beating or when someone is not breathing normally (may be gasping for breath) or is not breathing at all.

Most children never need rescue breathing or CPR. But if they do, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Talk to your doctor or take a class to learn how to do rescue breathing and CPR, and then use these instructions as a reference.

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are in many public places. Before you use an AED, follow all the steps for CPR.

To use an AED, place it next to the child and turn it on. The AED will tell you what to do next.

How to do rescue breathing and CPR

Step 1: Check to see if the child is conscious.

Tap the child's shoulder and shout, "Are you okay?" to see if the child responds.

If the child does not respond, call 911 or ask someone else to call. Then start CPR. But if you are alone and don't have a phone, start CPR. Do CPR for 2 minutes. Then call 911.

Use an AED (automated external defibrillator) if there is one nearby.

Step 2: Start chest compressions.

  1. Kneel next to the child. Use your fingers to locate the end of the breastbone, where the ribs come together. Place two fingers at the tip of the breastbone.
  2. Put the heel of one hand just above your fingers on the centre of the child's chest between the nipples.
  3. Use the heel of one hand to give compressions. For a larger child, use both hands by stacking one hand on top of the other and lacing your fingers together.
  4. Position your arms and body for doing chest compressions: Straighten your arm, lock your elbow, and centre your shoulders directly over your hand.
  5. Using your body weight, push hard and push fast. The force from each thrust should go straight down onto the breastbone. Press the chest down about 5 centimetres (2 inches). Be sure to let the chest re-expand at the end of each compression.
  6. Give 100 to 120 chest compressions a minute (about 2 times a second). If it helps, push to the beat of a song (like "Staying Alive") that has 100 to 120 beats per minute.
  7. If you are trained in rescue breathing, give 30 compressions, then 2 rescue breaths. (See Step 3.)
  8. If you are not trained in rescue breathing, keep giving compressions until help arrives, an AED is ready to use, or the child is breathing normally.

Step 3: Rescue breaths.

  1. To do rescue breaths, put one hand on the child's forehead, gently tilt the child's head back, and then pinch the child's nostrils shut with your thumb and finger. Put the fingers of your other hand under the bony part of the child's lower jaw near the chin. Tilt the chin upward to keep the airway open.
  2. Take a normal breath (not a deep one), and place your mouth over the child's mouth, making a tight seal. Blow into the child's mouth for 1 second, and watch to see if the child's chest rises while keeping the chin tilted.
  3. If the chest does not rise, tilt the child's head again, and give another breath.
  4. Between rescue breaths, remove your mouth from the child's mouth and take a normal breath. Let the child's chest fall, and feel the air escape.
  5. Keep giving compressions and rescue breaths until help arrives, an AED is ready to use, or the child is breathing normally.

Talk with your doctor or nurse if you have questions about how to do rescue breathing and CPR.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.