Life Saving Guide to CPR

This life-saving guide to CPR can help you in learning the safest technique. CPR for adults involves the sequence of ABC (Airway check, Breathing Check, and Compressions) for those trained in CPR or CBA (Compressions, Breathing Check, and Airway Check) for those not trained in CPR. Don’t be afraid to perform CPR even if you aren’t officially trained with our guide to CPR below.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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What is CPR?

CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. The Mayo Clinic says that CPR is a lifesaving technique that can be useful in many emergency situations. It is recommended that anyone, whether untrained bystanders or trained professionals, perform hands-only CPR. CPR can keep oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs. There are many local professionals who give classes on CPR and AED training.

For more information, visit Kids Health: CPR.

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History of CPR

The American Heart Association states that CPR began in the 1700s. While hand compressions did not come into practice until 1891, in 1740 the Paris Academy of Science recommended mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for drowning victims.

In 1903, Dr. George Crile reported the first successful use of external chest compressions. In 1904, he was also the first to be successful in closed-chest cardiac massage.

Even though we may think expired air would not be sufficient enough to provide oxygen to a victim, James Elam proved in 1954 that it was indeed enough to keep blood oxygenated.

In the 1960s, modern CPR was developed, and the American Heart Association started training physicians with closed-chest cardiac resuscitation. This training was the precursor to the training course that the general public could receive. In 1983, the American Health Association developed CPR methods for pediatric and neonatal patients. They introduced the first training courses in pediatric CPR in 1988.

You can read more about the history of CPR by viewing a video by the AHA: Hands of Time: Celebrating 50 Years of CPR

Modern CPR

While CPR has been practiced for nearly 300 years, modern CPR began in the 1960s. However, modern CPR resuscitation guidelines and how to perform CPR still change to give the best chance of survival for the person receiving it. The Heart Academy reports that in 2010 CPR changed from an ABC (Airway check, Breathing check, Compressions) sequence to a CBA (compressions, breathing check, airway check), and even just C (compressions). The reason for the change is to encourage more bystanders without training to attempt CPR on an unconscious person in cardiac distress.

For more information, go to:

CPR for Adults

CPR for adults involves the sequence of ABC (Airway check, Breathing Check, and Compressions) for those trained in CPR, or CBA (Compressions, Breathing Check, Airway Check)/C (Compressions) for those not trained in CPR. Do not be afraid to perform CPR if you are not trained. Most states have good Samaritan laws should you find yourself in such a situation. If you would like to be trained in CPR, you can find a local class at the American Heart Association or Red Cross.

The Red Cross gives some clear instructions on how to perform CPR.

  1. Check the scene and the person. Make sure everything is safe, tap the person on the shoulder and shout “Are you OK?” to confirm they need help.
  2. Call 911 for assistance. If available, send someone to retrieve an AED machine. If there is no one available to retrieve an AED machine, stay with the victim and continue CPR.
  3. Open the airway. Tilt the victim’s head slightly back to lift the chin.
  4. Check for breathing. Listen carefully for no more than 10 seconds. Gasping sounds do not mean they are breathing. Begin CPR if there is no breathing.
  5. Push hard and fast. Place your hands on top of one another on the middle of the chest. Use your body weight to help you push. Make sure you push no deeper than 2 inches and deliver at least 100 compressions a minute (use the tune of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees to help you keep a set pace).
  6. Deliver rescue breaths if you feel comfortable. Pinch the person’s nose, slightly tilt the head, and deliver two rescue breaths. Make sure the chest rises with the breaths. If not, raise the chin a bit more to open the airway. Continue compressions.
  7. Continue CPR until the person starts breathing on their own, an AED machine becomes available, or EMS or a trained medical responder arrives.

To learn more, visit:

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CPR for Kids

Medline Plus states that all parents and those who take care of children should be trained in CPR for children. New techniques emphasize compressions over rescue breathing and airway management. Time is extremely important when handling an unconscious child. Brain damage can occur after 4 minutes without oxygen and death can occur after 4-6 minutes without oxygen. CPR for children is almost no different than that done for adults.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has information and a video on how to perform CPR on a child.

  1. Check the scene for safety. Tap the child’s shoulder and shout “Are you OK?” to check for consciousness.
  2. Call 911 for assistance.
  3. Check for breathing and check their airway.
  4. Begin CPR if the child is not breathing.
  5. Position one hand on the center of the chest and place your other hand on top of the other.
  6. Lock your elbows, lean over the child’s chest and compress the chest no more than 2 inches in depth 30 times.
  7. After compressions, if you feel comfortable, perform rescue breaths by tilting the head slightly back, pinching the nose, and breathing into the child’s mouth two times. Or, continue chest compressions non-stop.
  8. Continue CPR until an EMS, trained medical responder, or other help arrive.

To learn more, go to the University of Maryland Medical Center: CPR for children 1-8 years old.

CPR for Infants

CPR for infants is slightly different than CPR for adults and children. Infants are more likely to suffer choking, suffocation, and strangulation.

Scituate Health Alliance outlines the steps to follow when administering CPR to an infant.

  1. Check the infant’s condition. Gently tap their shoulder, flick their foot, or shout to get their attention. If there is no response, gently place the infant on their back.
  2. Open the infant’s airway. Gently tilt back their head and listen for breathing. Also look for the chest raising as signs of breathing.
  3. Give the infant two gentle breaths. Do not breathe too hard or fast as an infant’s lungs are not as big as a child’s or adult’s.
  4. Begin chest compressions. Place the pads of two to three fingers just below an imaginary line running between the infant’s nipples. With the pads of your fingers, smoothly compress the chest 1/2” to 1” deep.
  5. Continue to repeat two breaths and 30 compressions until help arrives. If you are alone, after 2 minutes of care, call 911 and continue CPR. Otherwise, have someone else call 911 for you.

For more information, go to:

CPR for Animals

According to America Veterinarian Medical Association, less than 6 percent of dogs and cats go into cardiac arrest. CPR for your pet has similar actions to CPR for humans. Performing chest compressions, rescue breathing, and checking airways are standard in CPR for animals.

The Animal League details the steps to take when attempting CPR on your pet.

  1. Check the animal is unconscious. Tap, talk to them and attempt to wake the animal. This is also for your safety should the animal only be deeply sleeping.
  2. Open its airway by tilting the head back and moving the tongue over. Give 4-5 breaths by place your mouth over the animal’s nose. Breathe hard enough to raise the chest. Remove your mouth when the chest is fully expanded, allowing the air to vacate. Check for a pulse or breathing.
  3. Check for a pulse on the inside of the rear leg, towards the top of the thigh. If there is a pulse but its not breathing, continue to assist the animal with rescue breaths through their nose.
  4. If there is no pulse, lay the animal on their side. For small animals, sandwich the chest between your hands right behind the shoulder blades. Compress about 1/2” to 1” deep. Perform 100-150 compressions per minute. For larger animals, place them on their right side and place your hands on the widest part of their chest. Depress the chest 1.5” to 4” deep, depending on the animal’s size.

To learn more, visit One Green Planet: How to do pet CPR.

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Hands-Only CPR

Hands-only CPR is recommended for those not trained in formal CPR. New York Presbyterian states that hands-only CPR can double or triple the chance of a cardiac arrest victim surviving.

Fit One Boise says hands-only CPR is easy and quick to learn.

  1. Check the scene for safety. Tap the person’s shoulder and shout “Are you OK?”
  2. Call 911.
  3. Begin chest compressions by placing both hands on top one another in the middle of the chest. Push hard and fast. Use the song “Staying Alive” to keep the pace. If there are other bystanders nearby, switch off with them every 2 minutes.
  4. Continue chest compressions until medical help arrives.

For more information, visit Georgia Department of Education: Hands-only CPR.

Additional Resources

Colgate has an informative article at CPR statistics.

CPR Test discusses the facts versus fiction of CPR at CPR myths.

The Illinois General Assembly gives clear information on the law and your legal protection regarding CPR at Good samaritan law.

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