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    Should Your Kid Learn CPR?

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    About the author

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    Dr. Mary Williams, R.N., D.C is a Doctor of Chiropractic with an extensive background as a Registered Nurse and experienced Core Instructor for the American Heart Association. She has over 30 years of hands-on medical and instructional experience.

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    In 2016, 13-year-old Janeth Santos was hanging out with her mother at home when she heard nearby screams. A neighbor’s son was choking. Janeth calmly took control, asking the mother if she’d performed chest compressions. Then she checked the child’s airway—and found a piece of candy blocking it.

    Santos had learned first aid and CPR at school, and when the chips were down, she followed her teacher’s instructions [1].

    Later, in 2017, 15-year-old Walter Virany’s friend collapsed while they were at a skate park. He lost his pulse and his lips turned blue. Luckily, Virany had learned CPR last year at school—and was able to save his friend’s life [2].

    In the same year, two brothers—aged 17 and 11—saved the life of a four-year-old boy who fell into a swimming pool. They noticed the boy sinking in the deep end of the pool, pulled him out, and performed CPR until he recovered [3].

    These stories are riveting, but they are not especially rare. Children as young as 11 years old—sometimes younger—have been shown able and willing to provide lifesaving care when needed. Kids are often around other kids, and may catch onto emergencies that busy adults don’t—especially when those adults are responsible for dozens of children at a time, or when adults aren’t immediately present. Children who know CPR can save lives, just as adults do. 

    Are Kids Capable of Learning and Performing CPR?

    According to a 2009 study by Dr. Fritz Sterz at the Medical University of Vienna, it is more than worthwhile to teach children CPR. Approximately nine out of ten children in the study—aged 9 to 18—performed the skills correctly, although only 69% correctly performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This indicates that hands-only CPR may be more effective for children to learn—as it is for adults.

    The study also showed that while many of the children retained the skills, physical strength inhibited some from performing chest compressions to the right depth. This suggests that children may be better as a whole at performing CPR on other children, rather than adults, based purely on physical strength. However, there are plenty of instances where children have saved the lives of adults by performing CPR.

    However, children are often attentive and eager to please—and they are more able to handle and process serious adult challenges than we often give them credit for. Anecdotal evidence shows that children are capable of assessing a situation, responding calmly, remembering their training, and saving lives.

    How to Bring a CPR Training Program Into Your Child’s School

    The American Heart Association states that children as young as nine years old can learn CPR. You can help bring this important skill to the kids in your community by working with your school and outside partners.

    Whoever teaches the class should have an updated CPR certification. You could do it yourself—by taking and passing the training—or make a connection with an outside organization. A number of organizations, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, the American Heart Association, and the Red Cross have training programs specifically oriented towards children. Local fire and emergency response departments may also be willing to bring a training program to your child’s school.

    Some states already require kids to be taught CPR in public schools. Usually this is at the high school level; check out this map to see if your state is included.

    Even if it is, however, there may not be a CPR training in schools at an earlier level than high school. Making connections with an organization that already administers CPR training—usually on a volunteer basis—can streamline the process of bringing training into schools.

    How to Teach CPR to Your Child

    First, you’ll need to have the skills yourself. To ensure you’re learning the techniques correctly, get CPR certified. Then take these skills home.

    Children are often enthusiastic and eager to learn, and studies have shown they retain what they learn. However, it’s best to keep it simple by teaching hands-only CPR, without the rescue breaths—this is currently the recommendation of the American Heart Association for bystanders without medical training; both children and adults.

    In performing hands-only CPR, there are only two steps: first, call 911. Second, push hard and fast in the center of the chest to a tune such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Eliminating the rescue breaths makes the process much easier to retain, and can help the child remember what to do even when faced with an emergency.

    The American Heart Association offers a CPR in Schools training kit that provides all the equipment you need to train a classroom full of kids. This includes inflatable mannequins, training DVDs, replacement airways, mats for kneeling, face masks, AED training simulators, comprehensive lesson plans, and more.

    It can be easier to get your kids engaged if you make learning CPR into a family activity. You can also take a class together. The American Red Cross, for example, teaches a Family and Friends CPR training course that’s designed for families. The emphasis is on group interaction and training for people of diverse ages.

    The Value of Learning CPR—At Any Age

    Having someone in your family who knows CPR just may save a life someday. Including your own.

    According to the American Heart Association, approximately 350,000 people experience cardiac arrest every year in the United States. Most of those occur outside of a hospital. Of those, 90% do not survive. This is mainly because they do not get help quick enough.

    In cardiac arrest, every second counts. The likelihood of survival goes down 10% with each minute after the attack. Emergency rescue workers may not be able to get to the victim as quickly as they need to—and a bystander who knows CPR may be their only hope. For those who collapse at home, that often means a family member.

    If a cardiac arrest victim is treated with CPR within the first few minutes, this doubles or even triples their chances of survival. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to know CPR—including children, who are highly capable of delivering lifesaving care.


    1. 13-Year-Old Certified to Perform First Aid and CPR Saves Little Boy Choking On Piece of Candy. http://www.insideedition.com/headlines/18815-13-year-old-certified-to-perform-first-aid-and-cpr-saves-little-boy-choking-on

    2. Teen Honored For Performing CPR, Saving Friend’s Life At Skate Park. http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/01/27/teen-honored-for-performing-cpr-saving-friends-life-at-skate-park/

    3. Brothers, apparently the only ones who knew CPR, save life of boy who nearly drowned. http://fox6now.com/2017/03/14/i-was-scared-brothers-apparently-the-only-ones-who-knew-cpr-save-life-of-boy-who-nearly-drowned/

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