In a recent survey from the British Heart Foundation, they found that 1 in 3 adults would not know how to help someone if they were unconscious and not breathing. 96% of them would call an ambulance, but the vast majority would not have a clue to help whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

The UK survival rates radically lag behind the rest of Europe. It is hoped that adding first aid to the curriculum in English Schools will help. However, the key development is that more people undertake some form of practical or online first aid training and are able to start CPR as soon as possible if someone collapses and stops breathing.

When to give CPR

In the UK alone, approximately 30,000 people suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest each year. Effective bystander CPR and use of defibrillator can more than double a casualty’s chance of survival. If someone is unconscious and not breathing it is imperative that you open their airway and commence CPR as quickly as possible. If you have access to a Defibrillator (AED), you should deploy that as quickly as possible and call for an ambulance.

If the casualty is unconscious but they are still breathing, you should put them into the recovery position and monitor them closely to make sure they continue to breathe.

Click here to learn how to put someone into the recovery position.

How to give CPR


If an adult has a Cardiac Arrest they generally retain 3 or 4 minutes worth of residual oxygenated blood in their system. If someone is pushing hard and fast on their chest, to pump that blood round their body, this can keep their heart and lungs supplied with oxygenated blood for a few minutes and buy them some time.

However, after 3 or 4 minutes (without being given breaths) they will start to run out of oxygenated blood. Therefore, to keep the casualty oxygenated and give them the best chance the casualty should also receive breaths:

• Place the heel of your hand on the centre of the person’s chest, then place the other hand on top and press down by 5-6cm at a steady rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
• After every 30 chest compressions, give two rescue breaths.
• Sufficient breaths should be given to inflate the chest.
• Deploy a defibrillator as quickly as possible.


Children are more likely to have experienced a respiratory arrest and they are also unable to retain oxygen in their system with the same efficiency as adults. Therefore, when resuscitating a child, they should initially receive 5 rescue breaths – tilt their head and lift their chin to open their airway and then breathe into them sufficiently for their chest to rise.

This should be followed by 30 chest compressions, pushing down on the chest by about a third and pushing hard and fast.

Get an ambulance on the way and then continue: 2 breaths: 30 compressions….

Click to read full article on adult and child CPR and for information on why it is so important that you give breaths and well as compressions

What to do if your baby is unconscious and not breathing

As with the adult and child advice; first check Danger, Response, open their Airway and check for Breathing – If you think they are not breathing properly (less than 2 breaths in a 10 second period), start CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation)




Tilt the head and lift the chin to horizontal and give up to 5 rescue breaths
Carefully tilt the head and lift the chin to roughly a horizontal position to take the tongue off the back of the airway then give 5 rescue breaths to re-oxygenate them. Babies and children are much more likely to have had a breathing problem first resulting in a respiratory arrest – their heart will stop later.

• Seal your mouth around their mouth and nose (if you can fit your mouth over both) and blow into them gently with a puff of your cheeks (their lungs are about the size of a teabag – so don’t breathe too hard).
• If they start to gurgle when you breathe into them, briefly turn them onto their side and empty any vomit from their mouth, before continuing with the breaths.





Push down by a third of their depth with two thumbs or fingers
Push hard and fast on the centre of their chest – roughly between the nipples at a rate of about 120 beats per minute – roughly 2 per second
After about 30 compressions…you will need to give them 2 more breaths and then continue with the compressions again. 30:2:30:2:30:2…

Keep going

When you push on the chest – you are being the heart
When you breathe into them – you are being the lungs

If you are on your own, you should perform 1 minute’s CPR before phoning for an ambulance (5 breaths, 30:2, 30:2 is about a minute). Continue until the paramedics arrive.

For full article click here  on how to help an unconscious baby.

Why defibrillators save lives

It is vital that anyone who is unconscious and not breathing, receives immediate and appropriate treatment, CPR and a defibrillator. Frighteningly figures from the British Heart Foundation show that only one in ten victims survive.
Our survival rate is considerably lower than that in Scandinavian Counties where there is a far higher importance paid to the education and training of school children and the general population to ensure they are sufficiently skilled and equipped to be able to help immediately someone collapses.
Defibrillators (AEDs), combined with effective CPR, save lives.
If someone collapses and is unconscious and not breathing, their chances of survival in the community are only about 6%. However, if they receive quality CPR and a defibrillator is deployed within 3 minutes and they are in a schockable rhythm, the chances of survival jump to 74%.
Every minute’s delay giving CPR and defibrillation reduces a victim’s survival rate by 7 to 10 per cent and therefore, quick action is absolutely vital, as without immediate treatment, 90-95 per cent of cardiac arrests prove fatal.

What should you do if you witness someone having a sudden cardiac arrest?

• Call 999 – or ideally get someone else to make the call and report back to you. You can also put the phone on speaker so you can start CPR without delay.
• Start CPR
• Get someone to locate a defibrillator (AED) and bring it to you immediately.
• If you are using a defibrillator on a child, ideally you will use paediatric pads, or the paediatric setting. If there is no setting and only adult pads – you can use one pad on the front of their chest and one on the back for children over the age of one.
• If there are no paediatric pads and no special setting and the child is under 1 year, keep doing CPR and get advice from the paramedics – they will usually advise you not to use the defibrillator.






With any luck, there will be one near you. For maximum accessibility, they are most common in public places such as train, but and tube stations, shopping centres, airports, dentists, GP Practices and leisure centres there are apps such as Heartsafe which can help locate the nearest AED.

Defibrillators are extremely easy to use and you cannot do any harm to an unconscious casualty by using one. If someone is unconscious and not breathing they need your assistance fast.

Defibrillators talk to you and give you clear instructions what to do. It is necessary to be giving good quality CPR in addition to using the defibrillator.

It is vital to act fast.

Only 40 per cent of bystanders in the UK who witness a cardiac arrest perform CPR

Research by the British Heart Foundation reveal that that only four in ten bystanders performed CPR, and that 62 per cent of British adults admitted to being worried about what to do if someone collapsed in front of them after suffering cardiac arrest.

Defibrillators make all the difference following sudden cardiac arrest, but more still needs to be done to increase awareness.



It is strongly advised that you complete an online or attend a practical first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Visit, or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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