A cardiac arrest is the most extreme emergency and happens when the heart stops beating in a normal way, preventing blood from pumping around the body.
For someone in cardiac arrest they will die within minutes unless treated immediately with CPR. You can be performing CPR whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
If you come across someone in cardiac arrest just think DRS ABC:
- Danger – keep calm and check the scene is safe to approach
- Response – shout “are you alright?” and shake the person’s shoulders
- Shout for help– send someone for help and call 999
- Airway – tilt the head back gently to open the airway
- Breathing – check for normal breathing by looking at the chest to see if it is rising and falling, listening for abnormal sounds such as infrequent and noisy gasps, feeling for breath on your cheek
- Compressions – if the patient is not breathing normally, start hands only CPR pushing hard and fast in the centre of the chest.
If there is a defibrillator nearby send someone to get it. You do not need prior knowledge of how to use one as it will give clear instructions. It could save someone’s life.
How to do CPR
- Kneel at the side of the patient
- Put the heel of your hand in the centre of the chest with the other hand on top*
- Keep your arms straight and elbows locked
- Push down hard and fast – twice per second
- Let the chest come back up before you press down again
*Use one hand for a child and two fingers for a baby
What about a heart attack?
A heart attack happens when there is a sudden interruption to the blood supply to part of the heart muscle and it is starved of oxygen rich blood. It is not the same as a cardiac arrest, however if left untreated it can lead to a cardiac arrest so it is vital that you call 999 immediately.
While waiting for the ambulance you can help:
- Sit the person down and make them comfortable
- Don’t give them anything to eat and drink
- If available, ask them to take a 300mg aspirin tablet to chew slowly (unless they are under 16 or allergic)
If they fall asleep and won’t wake up, check they are breathing. If they are, put them in the recovery position. If they are not, do CPR.