Do You Need Rescue Breaths When Performing CPR

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is an important life-saving procedure that anyone can learn. Traditionally, CPR combines rescue breaths and chest compressions to keep a victim stable until professional medical attention arrives. This is a critical procedure as it keeps blood and oxygen circulating throughout the body. If the brain goes without oxygen for even just a few minutes, serious brain damage or death can occur.


However, despite the widespread availability of CPR certification classes, many people are still hesitant to perform CPR in the event of a medical emergency. Since hundreds of thousands of episodes of cardiac arrest occur outside of a hospital every year, it’s vital for bystanders to be trained in CPR, and if the occasion arises, confident enough to jump into action.


Here, we take a closer look at hands-only CPR, a relatively new approach to CPR. Experts hope that his update to the procedure, which essentially removes the need for rescue breaths, will encourage more bystanders to take action, which means more lives could be saved. In fact, many studies show that hands-only CPR can be just as effective at saving lives.



As previously mentioned, hands-only CPR is a new approach to cardiopulmonary resuscitation that skips rescue breaths and focuses solely on chest compressions. Similar to traditional CPR, hands-only CPR should be performed on the victim as soon as possible and be delivered until medical professionals reach the scene.



In most emergency situations, a combination of rescue breaths and chest compressions is recommended. However, in the event that an adult falls victim to cardiac arrest, hands-only CPR can still be a very effective method. However, it is still recommended that traditional CPR still be used on children and infants.



According to the American Heart Association, roughly 70 percent of Americans stated that they feel helpless to assist someone undergoing cardiac arrest because they don’t know or don’t feel confident about performing CP. Many of these people are concerned they’ll perform the procedure incorrectly and possibly end up doing more harm than good. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you aren’t CPR certified, providing chest compressions and rescue breaths can make a major difference for the survival rate of the victim.



Whether you utilize a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths or opt for hands-only CPR, there are specific steps required to effectively perform CPR. Whichever method a bystander chooses, doing something is better than doing nothing. While many people fear that they may hurt the victim, a bruised or broken rib is far less serious than brain damage or even death. While it’s important for everyone to earn their CPR certification, here are the primary steps of CPR:

1.            Assess the situation.


Before beginning CPR, you need to assess the emergency to ensure that you don’t put others, or yourself, in harm’s way. Once the scene is safe, you should assess the victim. If they aren’t responsive or unable to breathe, begin CPR.

2.            Call 911.


Once you’ve assessed the situation, you should immediately call 911 or tell another bystander to do so.

3.            Open the airway.


After calling for medical assistance, position the victim so that they are lying flat on their back. You can then open their airway by lifting the chin and gently tilting their head back.

4.            Check for breathing.


With the airway open, you can now check for any signs of breathing. Carefully watch their chest to detect any movement. If there is no consistent breath, this is a sign that you need to begin CPR.

5.            Provide chest compressions.


Begin CPR. Place your hands with one over the other and interlace your fingers. Lock your elbows, position your hands at the bottom of their sternum, and use your body weight to deliver more force. You should give chest compressions at a rate of 100 compressions per minute, pressing in about two inches deep.

6.            Deliver rescue breaths (optional).


If you aren’t providing hands-only CPR, the next step is to give two rescue breaths. Deliver two rescue breaths to the victim’s mouth. Following a breath, observe their chest to see if it rises. If it doesn’t, you may need to reposition their airway.

7.            Continue the cycle.


Continue performing CPR until medical attention can reach the scene. If someone else present is trained in CPR, you can take turns so that one person doesn’t become too exhausted.


Nowadays, you can do practically anything online—this now includes becoming fully trained and certified in CPR. In fact, due to various aspects, such as speed and convenience, many students even prefer the online model as compared to traditional, in-person CPR classes. Online CPR classes can be completed 100 percent online. They also allow you the freedom to start and stop your classes whenever you need. This method of learning is ideal for full-time workers and those of us with hectic schedules.


While you may not always need to give rescue breaths when performing CPR, you should always perform CPR on a victim who is unresponsive and unable to breath. During those critical minutes following a cardiac arrest episode, CPR could be the difference between life and death. Keeping blood and oxygen circulating through the victim’s body is the best method for preventing critical brain damage before medical professionals can arrive.


If you’re interested in learning this critically important skill (or need to do so for your profession) consider earning your CPR certification online. Compared to traditional models, these classes can be more convenient, affordable, and you can earn your CPR certification or recertification even faster—for some students, it takes only hours. Regardless of how you choose to earn your CPR certification, doing so will provide you with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to take action in the event of an emergency. It could even save a life.

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