Jul 2, 2012

Why Hands-Only CPR Could Be Dangerous

One of my biggest phobias is passing out in public. Granted, it has only happened once but it was quite a memorable occasion considering it happened on the day of my college graduation. Luckily, my friend was able to rouse me and I don't think I was out for too long. I was given some water and snacks and muddled through until the ceremony was finally over and I could get the heck out of the blazing sun and into the air conditioner. I thank my lucky stars that no one called 911 and that no one made a huge scene.

Since that day I have hoped that I never ever pass out in public for fear of people making a scene, calling an ambulance or even administering unnecessary CPR. The following public service announcement advocates the use of hands-only CPR, which I am not opposed to at all. I do take issue with the incomplete CPR instructions, however. While I love that this PSA incorporates sign language to drive home the hands-only CPR idea, it's message could be potentially dangerous for a potsy who passes out in public:

"If an adult suddenly collapses, call 911. Then push hard and fast in the center of the chest."

Um, they skipped the part about listening for breathing and checking for a pulse...in the wrong overeager hands, hands-only CPR could result in unintended harm for people who pass out. Just because an adult has passed out does not necessarily mean they have suffered a heart attack. It could be a low-blood sugar issue, a heart arrythmia or orthostatic hypotension.

Always, always call 911 FIRST and FAST! Then, assess the situation quickly. Check the ABC's: Airway, Breathing, Circulation. Make sure their airway is unobstructed and clear. Check to see if they are breathing. Then check their pulse to make sure they have one. If they do have a pulse, DO NOT administer CPR, at least not yet. But keep monitoring their pulse until help arrives. It is also courteous to say something like "I'm here to help," or "Help is on the way." The person may or may not be able to hear you but try to keep them calm and comfort them. If they have any clue what is going on then they are likely pretty terrified. If you do have to administer CPR you may end up breaking a person's ribs, but that is a small price to pay for keeping them alive. And remember, you are protected by the
Good Samaritan Law. No one is going to press charges for trying to save their life.


  1. Did you mean "Hands only CPR"? I hope anyone doing any type of CPR would "check, call, care" before jumping into chest compressions. I was taught to do the breathing when I had CPR and they stressed that you were supposed to check for a pulse and clear the airway before calling for help then starting the care.

  2. Thanks Kathleen! I must be sleep deprived today! :) "Hands-free" CPR certainly would be dangerous. It was the same way when I took the classes. Thinking I need a refresher course. This hands-only thing is supposed to be effective, I really wish they would revise this PSA though...