What is Adult CPR?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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Adult CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) is often different from infant and child CPR. The two types of assistance have key differences because of the person’s size, lung capacity and ribcage strength. They may not be taught together, and those interested primarily in infant and child CPR, which is recommended by some agencies for all parents and for all people who work with younger children, can take a class specific to this, which lasts about two hours and is fairly inexpensive. The adult CPR class may or may not cover how to properly work with children, and those interested in being able to help both adults and kids should inquire of the organization running the class, or be certain to find an adult/infant/child CPR class.

Typical adult CPR handles two types or a combined type of emergency. Providing someone has a clear airway (and is not choking), it can be used to stimulate breathing, by providing breaths for the afflicted person. Alternately, if the person’s heart is not beating, people do chest compressions, and/or a combination of chest compressions and breathing assistance. Usually breathing doesn’t occur when the heart is not beating, but the heart can beat when breathing isn’t occurring.


In an adult CPR class, people get practice on how to recognize emergencies, check for evidence of no breathing, and take a pulse. They also learn how to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and how to do chest compressions to try to stimulate the heart to beat. Hands-on practice is done with adult sized dummies, and in infant and child classes, practice with child and infant sized dummies is available. Classes may not take more than a day to complete and they may help people get CPR certification.

There can be significant difference in how adult and child CPR are administered. For instance, in infant resuscitation, a person places his/her mouth over the child’s mouth and nose, and breaths given are very light. The lung capacity of an infant is extremely small, and it could not bear a full breath from an adult. Another big difference is chest compressions. This is done with two fingers, for five counts, which is then followed by a single breath. The older child (over one or two), has the mouth and nose covered fully the person performing rescuing breaths during CPR too, and chest compressions are done with a single palm at the five compressions to one breath ratio.

Another difference between infant/child and adult CPR is when to call 911. Standard recommendation with children, especially if a person is alone with a child is to attempt resuscitation prior to calling 911. This is reversed in adult CPR.

These variations mean it is not suitable to perform CPR for adults on children, or usually any child who is less than eight years old. Having training to help perform CPR with a person of any age can be truly useful. Yet training is sometimes more limited to CPR that would be performed on adults only.


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