accessibility & help

Questions and answers about helping someone who isunresponsive and not breathing when an AED is available

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.

Q

What is an automated external defibrillator (AED)?

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Answer

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a machine that can shock the heart back into normal rhythm. Once opened, the machine gives full instructions on what you should do. You just have to listen and do what it says.

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Q

Who can use an AED?

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Answer

Anyone can use an AED. Many public places, such as train stations and shopping centres, now have one available. The machine will only shock someone if they need it – it would never shock a healthy heart. The machine will give you instructions on how to help someone if a shock is not required.

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Q

Will I restart the person’s heart if I use an AED?

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Answer

If the AED delivers a shock to the person, it doesn’t always mean that their heart will restart. The machine will detect this and give you further instructions. You may need to resume chest compressions. Continue to follow the AED voice prompts until help arrives.

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Q

If I am alone, should I leave the person to get an AED?

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No, call 999 and start chest compressions. Your priority is to pump blood around the person’s body until help arrives. Call out for help and if another person arrives before the ambulance, tell them to get an AED as quickly as possible.

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Q

If an AED isn’t immediately available, how do I help an unresponsive and not breathing person?

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Q

How easy are AEDs to use?

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Answer

Very. Voice prompts will guide you through the process of using the AED, so you don’t need to worry if you have never used one before.

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Q

Can I use an automated external defibrillator on a baby or child?

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Adult AEDs can be used on children over eight years old. For a baby or child between one and eight years old, use a paediatric AED, or an adult AED with paediatric pads. If there are no paediatric pads available use the standard ones placing one in the centre of the child’s chest and the other in the centre of the child’s back. 

Never use an AED on a baby under one year old.

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