It is rare for a child or infant to initially suffer a cardiac arrest. Usually, they have a respiratory emergency first and cardiac failure ensues.
The most common causes for a child to go into cardiac arrest are:
- Congenital heart disease
- Airway and breathing problems (asthma or choking)
- Traumatic injury or an accident (drowning, electric shock, vehicle collision)
- A hard blow to the chest
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- What is a cardiac arrest?
- A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. Very quickly after this the child will stop breathing and lose consciousness.
Without oxygen, vital organs including the brain and the heart quickly suffer irreversible damage as tissue starts to die.
With every minute that passes before defibrillation, chances of surviving reduce by 10 per cent.
Using a defibrillator
The child needs immediate treatment with a defibrillator, which delivers an electric shock to the chest and can get the heart beating normally.
These defibrillators are carried by ambulance crew and ‘First Responders’ and automated versions are increasingly available in public spaces such as libraries, parks, gyms, shopping centres and some schools.
Until the AED (automated external defibrillator) arrives the child will need cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to keep their blood circulating.
Becoming familiar with how to use an AED and how to perform effective CPR is included on our courses as standard.
What to do
If the child is not responsive and not breathing, that means their heart has stopped working.
- Call 999
- Place the child on a firm flat surface
- Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone at the centre of the child’s chest. Place your other hand on top of the first hand and interlock your fingers.
- Position yourself with shoulders above your hands.
- Using your body weight, press straight down a third of the depth of their chest.
- Keeping your hands on their chest, release the compression and allow the chest to return to its original position.
- Repeat at the rate of 100-120 times a minute (to the beat of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees, or Nelly the Elephant) until the ambulance arrives.
If you don’t know how, you don’t want to, or giving inflation breaths is not successful, giving chest compressions only can buy enough time to save a life.
NHS choices website describes how to administer life saving CPR to children over 1 year. Watch a video with Vinnie Jones, Hard and Fast: Hands-only CPR.