Learn first aid for a child who is unresponsive and not breathing

If a child is not moving and does not respond when you call them or gently shake their shoulders, they are unresponsive.

1. Check for breathing by tilting their head back and looking and feeling for breaths.

Tilting the child’s head back opens the airway by pulling the tongue forward.

If they are not breathing, their chest and stomach will not be moving and you will not hear or feel their breaths.

If they are not breathing, move on to step two.

Find out what to do if they are breathing.

2. Tell someone to call 999.

If you are on your own, call 999 after you’ve spent one minute giving them rescue breaths and chest compressions.

3. Give five rescue breaths: tilt their head back, seal your mouth over their mouth and pinch their nose. Blow five times into the child’s mouth.

By blowing into their mouth you are topping up the oxygen levels in their blood. The oxygen you give them helps to keep their organs alive.

4. Give 30 chest compressions: push firmly in the middle of their chest with one hand so the chest goes inward, then release.

By doing these chest compressions you are acting as the heart by keeping blood pumping around their body, helping keep the vital organs alive, including the brain. If you are small or the child is large, you may need to use two hands.


 

5. Give two rescue breaths. Continue with cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until help arrives.

Watch how to help a child who is unresponsive and not breathing (1 minute 43 seconds)

Common questions about first aid for a child who is unresponsive and not breathing

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


How hard should I blow during rescue breaths?


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


Do I have to give rescue breaths?


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


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


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


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


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


What is an automated external defibrillator (AED)?


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


What is CPR?


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


How do I help an adult who is unresponsive and not breathing?


 

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

It’s vital to check for breathing. Knowing whether they are breathing changes how you should help the child. How you help an unresponsive child who is breathing is very different to how you help if that child is not breathing.

Learn how to help a child who is unresponsive and breathing.

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How hard should I blow during rescue breaths?

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

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

Keep going until help arrives or the child starts to breathe.

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Do I have to give rescue breaths?

You should give rescue breaths if you are able and willing to. Giving both rescue breaths and chest compressions increases the chance of the child surviving.

If you can’t give rescue breaths for any reason, just give chest compressions.

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

A young child’s rib cage is flexible, so the risk of breaking their ribs by giving chest compressions is small. Remember: you are giving chest compressions to keep the child alive. Without chest compressions and rescue breaths before medical help arrives, they are less likely to survive.

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

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

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

Call 999 as soon as possible and the operator will prompt you with questions. It is important to tell them that the child is unresponsive and not breathing. Giving them as much information about the child as possible will help them to prioritise your call.

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

You are unlikely to see any change at all in the child’s condition, but your actions will keep blood pumping around their body, helping to keep their vital organs alive.

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

You give rescue breaths and chest compressions to give the child the best chance of survival. You are acting as their heart and lungs, buying them vital time until the ambulance arrives.

The chance of restarting their heart by rescue breaths and chest compressions alone is low. To restart, a heart usually needs an electric shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED).

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What is an automated external defibrillator (AED)?

An AED is a machine that can be used to shock someone’s 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 to do. An AED can be used on children over a year old. If the child is one to 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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What if I make a mistake and give rescue breaths and chest compressions but the child is still breathing?

It’s not ideal but don’t worry. There’s no evidence to suggest you will cause any serious damage. You should stop giving 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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What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. CPR is the combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths.

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

Find out how to help a baby who is unresponsive and not breathing.

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How do I help an adult who is unresponsive and not breathing?

Find out how to help an adult who is unresponsive and not breathing.

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Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for a child who is unresponsive and not breathing.