Even though CPR isn’t a very complicated technique, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. And while getting proper CPR training is ideal, reacting fast and providing an SCA victim with early CPR is extremely important, even if you aren’t trained. Still, many people are reluctant to perform CPR on a stranger. Other than common CPR pitfalls, there are also some shocking CPR misconceptions, such as that a bystander must give mouth-to-mouth to a stranger.
There’s the fear of failing, doing something that shouldn’t be done, or further complicating the situation. In whichever case, accidents can happen, but knowing a thing or two about CPR can turn things around for the better.
Here are the 6 most common mistakes to avoid when performing CPR.
Don’t Forget to Call 911
When an emergency like a sudden cardiac arrest occurs, panic is the first thing people experience, which leads us to the number one mistake to avoid while performing CPR: forgetting to dial 911.
For many people, this is one of the common CPR errors, and to others, it’s a shocking surprise that people forget to call for help. When amidst a life-threatening medical emergency, people tend to focus on helping the victim and fall into a vortex of chaos: nothing matters more than helping the SCA victim start breathing again.
However, the faster you call 911, the faster the victim will receive professional medical help; thus, you’ll increase their survival chances. Additionally, if you aren’t trained in CPR and aren’t quite sure what to do, the 911 dispatcher can help guide you through the steps until the first responders arrive.
To make sure you don’t forget to call 911, assign the task to someone near you; while you perform chest compressions.
Always Check for Signs of Breathing and Responsiveness
A lot of people confuse a heart attack with a cardiac arrest, but there’s a major difference. A person suffering from a heart attack does not need CPR because their heart is still pumping and they’re breathing; however, they do need to be taken to a hospital right away.
On the other hand, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest does need CPR immediately. Before you start doing chest compressions, always check whether the person is breathing and is responsive. You can do so by seeing if their chest rises and falls and listening over their mouth or nose. To check for responsiveness, you should try shouting their name or tapping them lightly to see if they have any reactions.
Once you conclude that the person isn’t responsive and has difficulty or isn’t breathing at all, you need to cal 911 and start administering CPR immediately.
Don’t Forget to Tilt the Victim’s Head
A lot of rescuers make mistakes, and it’s not the mistakes themselves that cause harm but the severity. One of the most neglected CPR mistakes is not tilting the victim’s head before delivering rescue breaths.
Proper head positioning is crucial for the airway to stay open. When a victim’s head is tilted toward their chest, the airway is tightened, and air cannot pass through to the lungs. In that context, positioning the victim’s head in the right way can make all the difference in the method’s success.
Proper head positioning means tilting the victim’s head slightly backward, opposite their chest. Next, proceed with applying just enough force to do the chest compressions. Make sure you position your palms on the victim’s chest, keeping your elbows unlocked and your arms straight.
Keep the Chest Compressions Deep Enough
Not knowing how deep chest compressions should be is easily one of the most common CPR mistakes. In addition, shallow chest compressions aren’t helpful either. In general, chest compressions should be around 2 to 2.4 inches deep for adults.
Improper chest compressions (too slow, too fast, or not deep enough) can do more harm than good.
People make this mistake mainly because of fear of hurting the victim’s lungs or crushing their ribs. From an objective point of view, this is a totally rational fear, but knowing the depth range of compressions can help do CPR properly.
Also, it’s very important not to lean your body weight on the person receiving chest compression. This is to ensure the chest gets the opportunity to recoil after being compressed.
Don’t Interlock Your Fingers
One of the less-known CPR training pitfalls is finger placement. Interlocking your fingers and making a fist means the chest compressions you deliver are less effective. A lot of first-timers in CPR think that their fingers should be crisscrossed for the compressions to give effect, but that’s far from the truth.
To avoid incorrect hand placement, do the following: position your other hand on top of your dominant hand’s heel in the center of the chest and keep both palms open. The same spot should always be in touch with both hands to ensure steady compressions.
To keep up a steady tempo and compress with enough strength, there’s a trick that can help beginners in CPR: think of their favorite dance beat and perform the chest compression to a similar rhythm.
Last but not least, CPR beginners should test their compression technique on a CPR training dummy to become familiar with the correct timing and pressure before actually performing the technique on a person.
Only Deliver Rescue Breaths If Trained to do So
I you are skilled and informed, you can perform rescue breaths in addition to chest compressions. Also, it’s utterly important to remember to only administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if you are trained to do it — inadequate rescue breaths can seriously harm a victim.
In general, each rescue breath should only last a few seconds. Rescuers commonly misjudge the capacity of the victim’s lungs and over-inflate them. Air entering the stomach due to overinflation is likely to produce regurgitation and vomiting, restricting the victim’s airway.
When a person has a pulse but isn’t breathing, rescue breaths can be administered on their own. When a person’s breathing and heartbeat have stopped, CPR is performed with alternating rescue breaths and chest compressions.
The stopping of the heartbeat, or cardiac arrest, frequently follows respiratory arrest. Because of this, performing CPR in an emergency may be more common than performing rescue breaths only.
Performing CPR the Right Way
Before anything else, quickly scan the area around you to ensure safety, and then do the following:
- Put your hands in the center of the person’s chest, just below their nipples, if they are not breathing. Cross one hand over the other.
- Push your hands down firmly in the middle of the person’s chest, using the weight of your body as support. Use your hand’s heel or the area directly before your wrist. Arms should remain straight.
- Do compressions on the person’s chest 100 to 120 times per minute, pressing down two inches each time. Make sure to wait until their chest has fully risen before applying compressions.
- People with CPR training can stop compressions after every 30 compressions (approximately 20 seconds or so) and give the patient two mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths.
A proper CPR technique involves doing chest compressions until medical professionals are at the scene. It might get tiring after a while, but remember, you are actually saving a person’s life!
Key Takeaway: 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Performing CPR
All of the CPR mistakes we discussed are preventable and can be avoided. However, the sense of urgency and the need to act fast lead to such errors. In all fairness, people with significant experience and training in CPR are less likely to make such mistakes.
Delayed emergency response is as bad as no response at all. Knowing the right way to perform CPR can be of great help whenever in doubt and needing to make a decision in the nick of time. At the end of the day, medical emergencies can happen anywhere and at any moment; feeling prepared and confident will reduce fatalities and potentially save lives.
The best approach to do CPR on a person experiencing cardiac arrest is to become properly certified and trained– after all, you can’t put a price on saving a life.