While many of us have taken a first aid course in the past and think we would be able to conduct CPR to save someone’s life if we had to, the truth is that we rarely get to practice this skill. When the moment comes to save someone’s life we may not have practiced CPR for ten or twenty years. All of this means that when you are by the beach or in a crowded restaurant and someone needs CPR many will hesitate before acting. Everyone should take first aid classes regularly to make sure they are equipped with the knowledge to save a life if they have to.
Another reason to take regular CPR classes is that the recommended approach to CPR changes often. If you have not taken a CPR lesson in twenty years you may still be confident in your knowledge but it may be out of date. Try to think now of how you would give someone CPR. If you have never had a first aid lesson base it on the movies and tv shows you have watched. You would apply some pressure to the chest and then blow in the mouth, right? If you have ever seen The Office you are likely thinking of doing it to the tune of ABBA’s appropriately named ‘Staying Alive’.
That was the right approach a long time ago. If you were trained more than 15 years ago you may have been thought 15 compressions to the chest followed by air to the mouth and repeat. If it was in the last 15 years you may have learned 30 compressions to the chest followed by air to the mouth. However, both are now out of date. In 2010 an international committee examined approaches to CPR and found that the more time spent compressing and the less time spent blowing air, the greater the chance of saving a life.
It turns out that the most important thing during CPR is to keep someone’s heart pumping blood. If their heart stops pumping blood the brain will not be able to survive. It is estimated that it takes around 10 compressions in a row to get blood to the brain. When you stop, the pressure disappears and the blood leaves the brain. Any moment you stop to do a breathing exercise is allowing the blood to escape from the brain and thereby starting to starve it again. It is a much better approach to simply continue compressing until paramedics arrive to ensure there is still blood in the brain.
There are often crazy stories about how long people’s hearts stopped before they were resuscitated. While these are all amazing the reality is that if your heart stops for over 10 minutes there is a good chance your brain will die.
You may be wondering if we can really forget about breathing? Breathing is required to live so it is surely important too? Of course, it is. The main role breathing plays is to bring oxygen into the lungs. At the moment of cardiac arrest, there is still enough oxygen in the lungs to maintain brain function for a few minutes. This is why you should focus on compression.
I should point out that I am not a medical professional. I am definitely a big proponent of not believing everything you read on the internet either. So please, don’t just follow this guidance blindly, investigate it. Book another first aid lesson so that if the need arises you have the best chance of saving someone’s life. During your class ask questions about the need to compress versus older methods.