Many people don’t know what CPR involves or even what it does to an individual who is unconscious. Knowing how to perform CPR properly could wind up saving someone’s life one day, so it’s an important skill to learn.

CPR enables you to keep someone who isn’t breathing alive until the emergency services arrive – it works by keeping the blood flowing when their heart stops beating. In fact, CPR can double or even triple the likelihood of someone surviving. Here’s a guide to CPR, including three important steps you need to remember.

What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s a vital medical procedure that can save the lives of people suffering with cardiac arrest. The process works by helping to pump blood around the body when the heart isn’t capable of doing so, to help prevent the organs from failing. It could be the difference between someone surviving a cardiac arrest and death, so knowing how to perform CPR is a key skill that everyone should develop and have a thorough understanding of.

3 Golden CPR Rules

1. Check for a response

If someone is having a cardiac arrest, their breathing will either be abnormal, or they won’t be breathing at all. They also won’t be conscious, so if you find someone who is unconscious, always check for any danger or risks before you begin helping them. You can do this by asking them loudly if they’re alright and gently shaking their shoulders to try and help them regain consciousness. You should also gently tilt their chin upwards to open the airways so you can check if they are breathing or not, as it might not be immediately clear.

You shouldn’t leave the person alone, but you should try to ask for help from those nearby or attract attention if you’re by yourself by shouting loudly for help. You, or someone close by, should call for help by ringing 999 – don’t start compressions until you’ve spoken with emergency services and have confirmed that an ambulance is on the way.

2. Cover the mouth and nose

Current governmental advice states that you shouldn’t provide rescue breaths to the individual as there might be a risk of infection. So, it’s important to lay a towel or a piece of clothing over their mouth and nose, and don’t put your face close to theirs as this can transmit viruses and infections, either from you to the individual or vice versa. If you’ve confirmed that they are breathing normally, put them in the recovery position while you wait for the emergency services to arrive.

3. Start chest compressions

Kneel next to the person and place the heel of one hand on the centre of their chest, placing the other hand on top. Interlock your fingers and, using straight arms, push down on the breastbone firmly using the heel of your hand.

Top Tip: Make sure you’re pressing down hard by around 5-6cm before releasing. This is for adults or children aged nine and above. For younger children and infants, give 30 chest compressions or 100 per minute, pushing around 4-5cm in children or 3-4cm in infants, using two or three fingers rather than the heel of your hands.

You need to continue this motion at a rate of between 100 and 120 chest compressions per minute, or around two per second. Keep this rate up until a paramedic arrives and can take over, or until the person regains consciousness. This might look like opening their eyes, speaking, coughing or breathing normally again. Watch out for these signs as you’re performing CPR but keep going until help reaches the scene. If you get tired or you don’t feel that you can keep going, ask someone nearby to take over.

It’s important to act quickly if you spot someone in trouble, as less than five minutes without oxygen can cause lasting brain damage and issues with other organs in the body. Everyone should be prepared for such an event, as knowing how to perform CPR properly may prevent an unnecessary death in the future.