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  • Teaching Your Child CPR Could Save Your Life

    Teaching Your Child CPR Could Save Your Life

    by Dr. Mary Williams, R.N. D.C.

    Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known by the acronym CPR, is a series of lifesaving procedures that a person can employ in the event of a life-threatening medical emergency. The goal of CPR is to induce the body to resume breathing and maintain the proper flow of blood in order to prevent or forestall damage to the brain or other vital organs. It is a technique that is useful in the event that someone's breathing stops or a person's heart stops beating. Typical incidents that require the intervention of CPR include choking, drowning, electrocutions, drug overdoses, and heart attacks. CPR is only a stopgap lifesaving measure and will require follow-up with more advanced medical care. It is usually administered by adults on adults or adults on children; however, there may be situations in which a child may need to administer CPR on an adult. If an adult is alone with a child and is in need of CPR, they will need someone who knows what to do and how to do it. A child who has been taught the basics of CPR can take action and potentially save the adult's life.


    There are a variety of potential situations in which it can be beneficial for a child to know CPR. For example, a sudden health problem could happen while they are with a babysitter, a single or stay-at-home parent, a grandparent, or a teacher on a field trip. When the caretaker in these situations is the ones who faces a life-threatening emergency in which their heart or breathing has stopped, a child trained in CPR can do what is necessary until help arrives. In addition, a (child) may find themselves in a situation where another child needs CPR. This could be a playmate, a classmate in an unsupervised situation, or a sibling in a home when the parents are away or out of reach. There have even been cases when children who knew CPR were able to successfully teach an adult how to administer it to someone else in the middle of an emergency situation. Pre-teen children have also managed to save the lives of others in their age group by using CPR.

    Some objections have been raised to the idea of teaching CPR to children. One of the concerns is that children may panic or freeze up and be unable to properly respond. There are also potential maturity issues with young children being put into a situation where they need to handle an emergency. The most significant objection is that some experts have monitored children who try to do CPR and studies have shown that younger children lack the actual strength to do it successfully. For example, no children in a Heartstart UK study that included 9- and 10-year-olds were able to do chest compressions to the required depth, and less than one in five in the 11-12 age group studied were able to do so. However, a study in Austria showed that it is possible to effectively teach children as young as nine years old to perform CPR and that they retained their training for an adequate amount of time. When an adult or child is in respiratory or cardiac distress and a child is present who knows CPR, the victim's chance of survival increases, meaning that the child's knowledge can make a positive difference between life and death.

    Children who are as young as eight years old can help save the life of another child. In addition to calling 911, they can take steps such as taking the heel of their hand and pressing it firmly into the center of the patient's chest, then repeating this until an adult arrives who can help. If the victim is over the age of eight, they will need to use two hands, interlock their fingers, move over the victim, and push firmly on their chest with their arms straight, repeating this until help comes. Parents looking to teach their children about CPR can use a variety of teaching aids, including flash cards. Like in all other situations, practice makes perfect. Parents can use dolls to help their children put their knowledge to use until they have polished and memorized their CPR techniques.

    While there are concerns about whether a child is mature enough or even physically capable of performing CPR on another child, much less an adult, there are few drawbacks to giving children some CPR training. Children have saved the lives of both adults and other children with the proper use of resuscitation techniques. Ultimately, in a life-or-death situation, a child who has been trained is better than one who has no idea how to respond. The more people who have knowledge of CPR, the more lives will be saved.