How to Do CPR

Step by step
How to Do CPR

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is something that we see on television a lot. Usually, it's a doctor pressing repeatedly on a person's chest, occasionally breathing into their mouth when not spouting scripted pleas for the person to wake up. That isn't what CPR is normally like at all. If you're not CPR certified, then performing it can seem like a daunting task:  You could have a person's life in your hands. If you want to know how to do CPR, should that time come, read on.

Check Pulse and Respirations

heart pulse diagram

The first thing you should do is check and see if this person really needs CPR, or is just unconscious. You only perform CPR on someone without a noticeable heartbeat or noticeable breathing. You'll want to do this quickly. We're talking five to ten seconds, tops. Check their pulse (the neck or wrist; whichever is easiest to get to), then watch their chest, to see if they're breathing. If they aren't, and have no pulse, continue.


man holding his chest heart

Getting the blood moving again is your top priority in CPR. In fact, if you don't know how to do the breaths, many 911 operators will simply tell you to focus on the compressions. To correctly do them, the patient must be on their back. Kneeling next to their head, place the heel of your hand over the center of their chest, directly between the nipple line (adjust for women; it can be different). Put your other hand on top of the first. Keeping your arms straight, push! And you have to push hard; you're to go down two inches. Aim for 100 to 120 compressions per minute. (Hint:  Do it to the beat of Stayin' Alive...or Another One Bites the Dust.)

Check Airway

statue men giving mouth to mouth

After you've done thirty compressions, you need to check their airway. Put your palm on the person's forehead, then tilt the head backwards. With your free hand, lift the chin forward. This will open the airway. Be gentle about it, though! Listen for breathing again. Gasping and choking do not qualify as breathing. If there is no rescue breath, get ready to start breathing.


lungs diagram

Give the first rescue breath, which is a sort of “testing” breath. To do this, pinch the person's nostrils closed. Next, put your mouth over theirs, forming a tight seal. Give a deep breath, lasting one second. Watch for their chest to rise and fall. If it does, give a second breath. If it doesn't, adjust their head's position. There's a ratio to the compressions and breathing:  For ever 30 compressions, you give 2 breaths.

Recruit Help

man pointing fingers

Performing CPR and trying to manage an emergency scene is a very difficult task to undertake alone. And it isn't a good idea to just shout out for help, either. Pick a person out of the crowd, and describe that person. Then, tell that person what you need them to do. (Such as, “Sir, in the yellow shirt! I need you to call 911!” or “Miss, with the umbrella! I need you to go find the nearest AED!) Otherwise, the “bystander effect” might kick in, and no one will do anything.

Performing CPR on a person is a terrifying situation to be in. It is often frightening, and can leave even trained professionals shaken. But, with the right knowledge, you might just save someone's life!

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