How to Perform CPR

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a great skill to know in case of an emergency. In fact, CPR doubles a person’s chance of survival after a sudden cardiac arrest.

Modern methods of CPR help the body maintain a flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and heart, keeping these organs alive until more help can arrive.

With sudden cardiac arrest, the heart changes from a normal beat to a fluttering beat called ventricular fibrillation (VF). This happens in nearly ⅔ of all cardiac arrest incidents. VF is fatal unless an electric shock can be given. CPR does not stop VF but it does extend the window in which a defibrillation can be effective.

Check out these instructions on the basics of CPR. You can also find a pocket guide to CPR that you can print here. There are also free iPhone and Android apps that you might find helpful.

1. Check the Victim
Check the victim. Did you see them collapse? If that’s the case be weary of your surroundings. Perhaps they were stung or bitten by a nearby insect. Be careful of the surroundings and check your victim to see if they are breathing, responsive or breathing normally.

2. Call for Help
If your victim is unresponsive and not breathing, you’ll need to call 911. A lot of people in the movies just yell “Someone call 911!” which isn’t a good idea. Make sure to single someone out and ask them specifically to call authorities. If you don’t do this, a lot of people will assume that someone else is calling 911. If you need to call yourself, do so. Many times an emergency dispatcher can also walk you through CPR instructions.

3. Pump the Heart
If the victim is still not breathing normally, not coughing or moving; begin chest compressions. Use your fingers to find the top of the rib cage and place your hand about four fingers higher than this point.
Use both hands, interlocking the fingers and keeping your elbows locked. Begin pushing down about 2 inches on the center of the chest 30 times. Pump hard and fast - at the rate of about 100 pumps per minute - faster than once per second.

If the victim is a child (ages 1-8), use one hand to pump the heart. If the victim is an infant use two fingers instead of an extended arm.

4. Rescue Breathing
After you’ve pumped the heart 30 times, provide them with some oxygen to circulate in their system. Tilt their head back and lift their chin. This will open up their airway system. Pinch their nose and cover their mouth with yours. Blow into their mouth until you can see the chest rise. Give two breaths with each breath taking about one second.

If the victim is a child (ages 1-8), use normal breathes. If the victim is an infant (less than 1 year), provide two gentle breaths instead of large ones.

5. Continue
If the breaths are going in, continue to alternate between pumping and breathing until help arrives. If the victim wakes up or becomes responsive, stop administering CPR.

Sometimes, an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can be located after you’ve started CPR. Continue administering CPR until you can attach the AED correctly. Once it has been attached, follow the instructions on the AED.

Vomiting is the most common complication when administering CPR. If the victim begins to vomit, turn their head to the side and try and sweep out their mouth to keep the airway unobstructed.

Many times, people are afraid of catching a disease or infection by administering CPR. A spread of infection is extremely rare when administering CPR. Most cardiac arrests occur in the home where a family member would administer CPR. Even with CPR performed on strangers, there is an extremely low risk of infection. There are no documented cases of transfer of HIV or AIDS via CPR.

6. Once Help Arrives
When paramedics arrive, they’ll most likely have you back away from the victim - even if you’re in the middle of a pumping or breathing cycle. Provide them the space they need.

10 thoughts on “How to Perform CPR”

  • Robert

    find the BOTTOM of the ribcage and then go up 4 fingers. Your instructions as read would have them doing chest compressions on the neck.

  • Rick

    I'm a BLS instructor; finding the rib cage and using four fingers is extremely outdated. Placing the hand below the nipple line, on the lower portion of the breastbone is the quickest way to find your 'landmark' for hand placement. Push hard, push fast, use a cpr mask and if you don't have one, just keep doing compressions on the chest. Use one hand for a child/infant and keep the other hand on the child/infant's forehead, keeping the head parallel with the surface they are laying on to keep the airway open.

  • Jordyn

    No reason people shouldn't know CPR

  • StoneyFF

    This web page needs to be updated to the latest protocol. There are some inaccuracies here, including stopping compressions to give breaths... if you are alone, you should not stop compressions to give breaths, the movement of the ribcage during compressions actually brings in more oxygen (21% vs. 16% from your exhaled breaths into the patient) and the effect of the time lost doing compressions when you stop and start (including the time it takes to switch from compressions to breaths) isn't worth it. If there are two of you, then breaths are worth it.

    Also, anyone who gives breaths without using a mask of some sort is a fool. First, HIV is not the only thing communicable via mouth/saliva, and second I guarantee you that when they throw up in your mouth while you're giving breaths without a mask it will severely impact your ability to continue effective CPR. No mask, no breaths!

    (Drowning being the possible exception)

    Whoever owns this page needs to get the latest protocols for CPR from the proper authorities and update the page. PLEASE.

  • George Henson
    George Henson May 10, 2013 at 6:29 am

    I have learned this several times over the course of my life starting in boy scouts then through life guard training and a couple of more times. Each time it changes. I appreciate the updates from your readers.

  • ray

    I agree... old standards given here... also a cpr/acls/pals/ emt instructor.... new standards pump hard and fast to the beat of the horrible song staying alive.. between the nipples. No breaths are indicated anymore for non-healthcare providers as a pulse check isn't anymore either. Just kep pumping until somone more qualified shows up or the victim responds to compressions.... keeping blood pressure up is more important and the blood still contains a decent percet of oxygen

  • Sparky

    Its nice to see people WANTING to get involved. Step one: Get Training- Thanks for being interested.

  • Virginia Hoover
    Virginia Hoover May 18, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Would you please prnt out in big letters a card like set of up-dated instructions for everyone to keep by their phone and in an easy place to access?
    Many of us "oldsters" need to have this printed out in large letters so we can read it, we also need this handy in case of emergency.

  • Kayla P. Powell
    Kayla P. Powell May 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I want to take CPR classes. I think it is really important to learn CPR techniques, i want to be CPr-certified but somehow thinking about performing it in a real situation makes me scared.

  • Jon Marsiglia

    Thank you for sharing this information with your readers, It is so important to be able to access refresher steps when it comes to CPR. I do however recommend that all people get professionally trained in basic First Aid and CPR so proper techniques are learned. I appreciate the free printable CPR pocket guide. This is great for those who may find themselves in an emergency situation and need help remembering what to do.

    For more information on why you should consider getting CPR training, check here -

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