Wellness Heart Health What Is CPR? By Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon, CLC is a certified professional life coach, author, and journalist covering health and wellness, social issues, parenting, and mental health. She also has a certificate of completion from Ohio State's Patient and Community Peer Review Academy where she frequently serves as a community reviewer for grant requests for health research. health's editorial guidelines Published on April 3, 2023 Medically reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD Medically reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD Richard N. Fogoros, MD, FACC, is an internal medicine physician and cardiologist. Dr. Fogoros taught clinical cardiology and general internal medicine for over 20 years and directed cardiac electrophysiology at the University of Pittsburgh and Allegheny General Hospital. learn more Share this page on Facebook Share this page on Twitter Share this page on Pinterest Email this page In This Article View All In This Article Why Is CPR Performed? CPR for Adults CPR for Children Getting Certified Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency, lifesaving procedure performed when a person's heart stops beating (cardiac arrest). The hands-on intervention can help maintain blood flow and, in some cases, breathing until medical help arrives. Performing CPR can double or even triple a person's chance of survival. You also may be able to minimize their chance of brain damage—especially if you act quickly. Anyone can perform CPR—not just those who are trained and certified in it. If you see a teen or adult collapse, you can start performing chest compressions—or hands-only CPR—right away. Infants and children may also require rescue breathing, also known as mouth-to-mouth. Why Is CPR Performed? CPR should be be performed when someone's heart stops or they have stopped breathing and do not have a pulse. CPR should also be used when a person is experiencing cardiac arrest. A heart attack, near-drowning, injury, or trauma can cause cardiac arrest. During cardiac arrest, a person's heart has stopped beating and is unable to pump blood to the rest of the body, including the brain and the lungs. Without help, the person can die within minutes. Using CPR, you can improve a person's chance for survival. Performing chest compressions manually pumps the heart and helps keep blood flowing throughout the body. This can give the person extra time for emergency medical care to reach them. Cardiac arrest is different from having a heart attack. With a heart attack, part of the blood supply to the heart is blocked and heart muscles begin to die. When a person is experiencing a heart attack, they will remain conscious and breathing. A person having a heart attack does not need CPR, but they do require immediate medical attention to limit permanent damage to the heart muscles—especially because having a heart attack can increase a person's risk of going into cardiac arrest. Need Immediate Care? If someone is experiencing a medical emergency, call for help right away. 911 Johner Images / Getty Images How Do You Do CPR? The recommended order for CPR is to first perform chest compressions and then check the airway and address breathing. You can remember the order by thinking of the acronym C-A-B: compressions, airway, breathing. You do not have to be formally trained to perform CPR. However, those who are not trained should only give chest compressions, or hands-only CPR. In other words, you wouldn't need to worry about the second letters of the C-A-B acronym. Before Starting CPR While it's important to begin CPR right away, take a few moments to ensure safety and get medical help. Assess the situation and ensure it is a safe location.Quickly check if the person is responsive, breathing, or has any life-threatening injuries.Call 911 for assistance. If someone is with you, have them call 911 so you can start chest compressions right away. How to Perform Hands-Only CPR Begin performing chest compressions as soon as possible. Make sure the person is flat on their back on a firm surface.Kneel beside the person with your knees shoulder-width apart.Place the heel of your hand in the center of the person's chest and interlace your fingers.Lock your elbows and keep your arms straight. Your shoulders should be directly over your hands.Push hard and fast allowing the chest to return to its normal position after each compression.Perform consistent compressions going at least 2 inches deep at 100 to 120 beats per minute. Continue with chest compressions until help arrives. If you are not trained in CPR or you are uncertain about your abilities, you can perform hands-only CPR until help arrives and do not need to incorporate rescue breathing. Editor's Note: You can use the beat of a song like "Stayin' Alive" to help you keep pace of chest compressions. How to Perform Rescue Breathing If you have had CPR training and feel comfortable performing the steps, you can move on to prepare the airway and give rescue breaths, which is sometimes referred to as mouth-to-mouth. To do this, you will perform 30 chest compressions and then give two rescue breaths. Open the airway by placing your palm on their forehead and your fingers under their chin. Press back on the forehead while gently lifting the chin with your fingers. Lift the chin until the airway is past the neutral position.Listen for normal breathing or see if the chest is rising. (Gasping sounds do not indicate normal breathing.)Pinch the person's nose with your thumb and forefinger and make a seal with your mouth if the person is at least 1 year old.Breathe into the person's mouth and watch their chest rise.If their chest does not rise, tilt the head again and make sure you have a proper mouth seal before giving a second breath. (If the chest does not rise again, there may be an object blocking the person's airway.)Return to chest compressions and repeat process after 30 compressions until help arrives or an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available. Is CPR Different for Kids? While hands-only CPR is recommended for adults and teens, using both chest compressions and rescue breathing is still best for children and infants. Rescue breathing can help improve oxygen flow and reduce the likelihood of brain damage. It may be helpful to get certified in CPR if you are a parent, caregiver, or babysitter or work with children. CPR for Children Before performing CPR on a child, make sure the location is safe and get permission from the parent if possible. You should also use personal protective equipment (PPE) if you have it on hand. Shout to get the child's attention, or tap on their shoulder and check for breathing.Call 911 for help, or ask another bystander to call for help while you begin CPR.Place the heel of your hand in the center of their chest and interlace your fingers. (If the child is small, use only one hand.)Lock your elbows and keep your arms straight. Your shoulders should be directly over your hands.Push hard and fast, allowing the chest to return to its normal position after each compression.Perform 30 consistent compressions going at least 2 inches deep at 100 to 120 beats per minute.Use the head tilt/chin lift technique to open the airway.Blow into the child's mouth and watch to see if the chest rises. (If the chest does not rise, an object may be blocking the airway.)Continue doing 30 chest compressions and two breaths until help arrives or an AED is ready to use. CPR for Infants As with CPR for children, check if the location is safe, get the parents' permission if possible, and use PPE if you have it available. Shout to get the baby's attention, or tap the bottom of their foot and check for breathing.Call 911 for help, or ask another bystander to call for help while you begin CPR.Use two fingers placed parallel to the chest to do chest compressions. (You also can place both thumbs side by side and use your other fingers to encircle the baby's chest and toward the back.)Push hard and fast allowing the chest to return to its normal position after each compression.Perform 30 consistent compressions going about 1.5 inches deep at 100 to 120 beats per minute.Use the head tilt/chin lift technique to open the airway to a neutral position (Do not move their head past neutral like you do for children and adults because this could close their airway).Place your mouth over both the baby's nose and mouth and puff lightly into the baby's mouth watching for the chest to rise.Continue doing 30 chest compressions and two breaths until help arrives. CPR Certification If you are interested in getting certified in CPR, there are a few options available. Certification classes are offered in-person, online, and in blended environments. It takes about two hours to complete a CPR course, and your certification will last for two years. If you are getting your certification for a job or childcare position, make sure to check the employer's specific requirements for certification. Some organizations will not accept online-only credentials. For instance, the American Council on Exercise—an organization that certifies health and fitness professionals like personal trainers—requires a hands-on skills check either in person or virtually. To find a CPR certification class near you, some credible resources to which you can turn are the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association. Both organizations offer tools to search for classes near you. You also can check with your local hospital, community center, or fire station to see if they offer training and certification. A Quick Review CPR can be a life-saving measure when a person is experiencing cardiac arrest or when they have stopped breathing and are unresponsive. Be sure to always ensure safety at the scene and call 911 before starting CPR. While becoming certified in CPR is the best way to build your confidence in emergency situations, anyone can perform hands-only CPR, or chest compressions. In some cases, performing rescue breathing, also know as mouth-to-mouth, may be necessary, such as the case with infants and children. To become certified in CPR, you can find a class through organizations like the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, as well as your local community center or hospital. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit 11 Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. MedlinePlus. CPR. American Heart Association. CPR facts & stats: How CPR is changing (and saving) lives. Malta Hansen C, Kragholm K, Pearson DA, et al. Association of bystander and first-responder intervention with survival after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in North Carolina, 2010-2013. JAMA. 2015;314(3):255. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.7938 American Heart Association. 2020 American Heart Association Guidelines for CPR and ECC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three things you may not know about CPR. American Red Cross. CPR steps. MedlinePlus. CPR - young child (age 1 year to onset of puberty). American Red Cross. Child and baby CPR. MedlinePlus. CPR - infant. American Red Cross. CPR/AED classes. American Council on Exercise. CPR certification and training.