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CPR: A Real Lifesaver

What Is CPR?

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a way to help a person who has stopped breathing, and whose heart may have stopped beating, to stay alive. "Cardio" is about the heart and "pulmonary" is about the lungs. "Resuscitation" means "revive."

What Happens During CPR?

The person giving CPR — called a rescuer — follows three main steps, which are known as C-A-B:

  1. C: Do chest compressions.
  2. A: Check the airway.
  3. B: Do rescue breathing.

What Are Chest Compressions?

The rescuer presses on the person's chest many times in a row to move blood out of the heart that has stopped beating.

What Is Checking the Airway?

The rescuer, after doing 30 chest compressions, checks the airway by listening and looking to see if the person is breathing.

What Is Rescue Breathing?

Rescue breathing helps to move oxygen, which everyone needs to live, down into the lungs of the person who isn't breathing. If the person is not breathing, TWO rescue breaths are given.

When Should Someone Use CPR?

The steps in CPR (compressions, airway, and breathing) should be used whenever someone is not breathing and when their heart is not beating.

What Should I Do First if an Emergency Happens?

If an emergency happens or someone becomes very sick while you're around, do your best to stay calm.

First, try to get the person to respond by gently shaking their shoulder and asking, "Are you OK?"

If the person doesn't respond and someone nearby is certified (trained) in CPR, they can begin CPR. If you're alone, shout for help or call 911 yourself.

Who Should Learn CPR?

Some people need to know how to perform CPR to do their jobs. Many medical people — from nurses and doctors to paramedics and emergency medicine technicians — must know CPR.

Lifeguards, childcare workers, school coaches, and trainers usually have to learn CPR. Many parents know how to perform CPR on kids in case of emergency.

Many people — maybe you — might want to learn how to do CPR just in case they need to use it someday. You can never tell when a medical emergency will happen and it's good to know that you could help.

How Can I Learn CPR?

The American Red Cross, American Heart Association, and the National Safety Council all offer CPR courses. You also might find CPR classes at your local hospital, places of worship, the YMCA, or your school.

You're usually ready to take a CPR course and get certified if you are in middle school or above. Talk with your mom or dad if you'd like to learn how to do it. Knowing CPR can be a real lifesaver!

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date Reviewed: Nov 30, 2019

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