Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a series of steps to help a person who is not responding and has stopped breathing. CPR helps deliver oxygen rich blood to the body tissue when the body is not able to do this on its own.
CPR is given to a child who is not breathing. This may be due to:
The outcome will depend on the cause and how soon effective CPR was started. Many are unable to regain a normal heartbeat after it has stopped.
It is possible that ribs will fracture or break during chest compressions. This is more likely in children with weakened bones. Other complications are also possible, such as lung puncture. However, there is greater risk of death if CPR is delayed or not done correctly.
Check to see if the collapsed or unconscious child is responsive. Tap the child and ask: “Are you OK?”
Follow these steps if the child does not respond:
The length of time for CPR depends on the reason it needs to be done and the response time of medical help.
Chest discomfort is common after CPR. Medicine and home care can help.
The emergency team will take over care when they arrive.
Children will need to be taken to the hospital for evaluation following CPR.
It will take a few weeks for the chest discomfort to go away. It will take longer if there were complications during CPR. Healing time will also vary based on the reason that CPR was done. Physical activity may need to be limited.
Call the doctor if your child is unresponsive. If someone is with you, have that person call for emergency medical services right away. If you are alone, do CPR for about 2 minutes before calling for medical help.
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
CPR steps. American Red Cross website. Available at: https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/performing-cpr/cpr-steps. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Pediatric basic life support (BLS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/pediatric-basic-life-support-bls. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD