Hands-Only CPR – Stayin’ Alive Part 2

In the US alone Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs more than 1,000 times a day. A person suddenly becomes unresponsive, stops breathing and may be gasping.

The heart stops pumping blood to the body and beats irregularly in a rhythm called Ventricular Fibrillation. Compressions are needed to keep blood circulating until a Defibrillator can shock the heart back Into a normal rhythm.

If compressions are not initiated a person would suffer irreversible brain damage in as little as 4-6 minutes of SCA.

Thankfully, giving mouth-to -mouth breathing is not necessary for SCA for adults. Ventilations can be delayed until EMTs arrive in an average response  time of 6-8 minutes, or until an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) arrives with a pocket mask.

The problem isn’t lack of oxygen, but the lack of circulation.

As long as the SCA is Witnessed and it is an adult, compressions will circulate oxygenated blood to their heart and brain to keep them alive.

However, in the following situations giving breaths should be considered for certified individuals:


  • Children and Infants
  • Drowning victims 
  • Airway obstruction/ unresponsive choking 
  • Head injuries that stop breathing 
  • Acute respiratory arrest such as  associated with smoke inhalation, or drug overdose
  • Not witnessed Sudden Cardiac Arrest 


Note: Mouth-to-mouth breathing is intended for friends and family. Barrier devices like a Pocket mask, rescue Key-chain barrier device, or Bag Valve Mask (used in medical settings)), are necessary to protect from saliva and vomitus to protect against the transmission of disease. We include a rescue key-chain barrier device (a $10 value) with every AHA CPR certification class in San Francisco.


By Roy Gordon, NREMT/ BLS, CPR Instructor

Revive CPR Training San Francisco


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