What should you do when a stranger collapses in front of you? Like you were taught in first aid class, start by checking for a pulse. If the heart is not beating, immediately begin CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with chest compressions. But should you also perform mouth-to-mouth ventilation?
For adult pulmonary and heart failure, manuals recommend performing cycles of 30 chest compressions followed by 2 mouth-to-mouth ventilations. That is unless the rescuer refuses to do mouth-to-mouth. In addition to increasing the risk of transmitting infections, mouth-to-mouth genuinely repulses a great number of people. Studies demonstrate that less than a third of all individuals who collapse in public places are rescued by bystanders. Explanation: polls indicate that many potential rescuers do not attempt CPR because they actually apprehend having to perform mouth-to-mouth.
Fortunately, we could soon see changes in the CPR guidelines. In fact, a Japanese study leads us to believe that chest compressions alone could be just as effective, if not superior, to a combination of compressions and mouth-to-mouth. The chest-compressions only approach, without ventilations, doubles the chances an individual has of surviving cardiac arrest without suffering major brain damage.
These first aid procedures aim to keep the blood flowing to vital organs so they can get enough oxygen until the paramedics can restart the heart. Even a brief lack of oxygen to the brain can cause serious damage.
When an individual collapses from cardiac arrest, his or her blood should have enough oxygen for chest compressions to suffice until the paramedics get to the scene. Furthermore, as the primary concern in such cases is keeping the blood flowing through the body, mouth-to-mouth can actually be a waste of valuable time. The main goal should therefore be performing chest compressions at a rhythm of approximately 100 per minute.
When started soon after cardiac arrest, CPR can save lives. Unfortunately, not enough Quebecers know CPR and other first aid procedures. Knowing and performing them on a victim can be the crucial difference between life and death in an emergency situation.
Although changes are being discussed, we should continue following CPR recommendations from organizations that specialize in emergency response such as the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance. Their recommendations apply to heart attacks and pulmonary failure, as well as chocking and drowning. If you find yourself in a critical situation where someone has collapsed, but you are incapable of giving mouth-to-mouth, remember that performing chest compressions without ventilations rather than simply standing by can save someone’s life! The brain is a very fragile organ that will utilize all the oxygen it receives.
If you wish to learn more on first aid and CPR procedures, contact your local Red Cross or St. John Ambulance office to get information on training programs in your area.