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Baby and Child First Aid

Questions and answers: giving first aid to a child who isunresponsive and not breathing

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

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How can I check for a response from the child?

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Speak to them: call their name and ask them if they are OK. Tap their shoulders. If they don’t respond to you, or if you do not get a coherent response from them, treat them as an unresponsive child.

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Q

Why is it important that I check for breathing on an unresponsive child?

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It’s vital to check for breathing because this will indicate how you should help the child. How you help an unresponsive child who is breathing is very different to how you help an unresponsive child who is not breathing.

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Q

How hard should I blow during rescue breaths?

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You should blow until you see the child’s chest rise.

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Q

How long should I do chest compressions and rescue breaths for?

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You should keep going until help arrives or the child starts to breathe.

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Q

Do I have to give rescue breaths?

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Ideally you should deliver rescue breaths if you are able and willing as this increases the chance of a successful outcome for the child. However, if you can’t give rescue breaths for any reason, just give chest compressions.

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Q

If I press too hard during chest compressions, could I break my child’s ribs?

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The rib cage of a young child is very flexible, so the risk of breaking their ribs by giving chest compressions is actually very small. However, it’s important to remember that ultimately the point of doing chest compressions is to keep the child alive. Without chest compressions and rescue breaths before the ambulance arrives, their chances of survival are much lower.

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Q

What if I’m on my own and my child is unresponsive and not breathing?

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It’s best to top up the level of oxygen in your child before calling 999. If you are on your own, do rescue breaths and chest compressions for one minute and then call 999 – then continue rescue breaths and chest compressions until help arrives. If someone else is with you, they should call 999 immediately.

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Q

What should I say on the phone to the emergency services?

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Call the emergency services as soon as possible and they will prompt you with questions. In this case, it is important to tell them that the child is unresponsive and not breathing. The more information you can give the ambulance controller about the child the better, as it will help them prioritise your call.

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Q

Will I see an immediate response to my chest compressions and rescue breaths?

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Many people think they will see an immediate response to chest compressions and rescue breaths. However, often you will not see any change at all in the child’s condition, but your actions may still be having a beneficial effect.

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Q

Will giving rescue breaths and chest compressions bring the child back to life?

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The aim of rescue breaths and chest compressions is to give the child the best chance of survival by acting as their heart and lungs - buying vital time until the ambulance service arrives. The chance of restarting their heart by rescue breaths and chest compressions alone is slim. To restart, a heart usually needs an electric shock from an AED.

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Q

What is an automated external defibrillator (AED)?

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An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a machine that can be used to shock the heart back into normal rhythm. Defibrillators are found in many public places, such as train stations and shopping centres. Once opened, the machine gives full instructions on what you should do. It can be used on children over one year old. If the child is aged between one and eight years old, use paediatric pads, placing one pad in the centre of the child’s back and the second pad over the centre of their chest.

Find out more about how to help an unresponsive and not breathing person with an AED.

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Q

What is CPR?

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CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is the term used to describe the combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths.

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Q

What if I make a mistake and deliver rescue breaths and chest compressions, but the child is actually still breathing?

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It’s not ideal but don’t worry – there’s no evidence to suggest you will cause any serious damage. You should stop delivering rescue breaths and chest compressions as soon as you realise they are still breathing.

Find out more about how to help a child who is unresponsive and breathing.

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Q

How do I help a baby who is unresponsive and not breathing?

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