What is the Difference Between CPR and First Aid?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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CPR and first aid are definitely related topics. It could be said that first aid is the more general of the two, and training in first aid might include instructions and practice on how to respond to a variety of medical emergencies that could be posing threat to life or to a part of a person’s body. One such medical emergency could be cessation of breathing or heartbeat, and the appropriate response in this case might be to administer CPR. Thus CPR can be seen as a type of first aid response.

There can be differences in the amount of first aid training people learn, and courses can sometimes be broken down into emergency and standard training. Standard training is actually the more extensive of the two, and would include teaching and learning how to handle a variety of medical situations like bites from insects or animals, broken bones, poisoning, childbirth, and care of wounds. Emergency first aid tends to be limited to the teaching of CPR, how to handle choking emergencies, and instruction on wound care for excessive bleeding.


CPR and first aid may be taught together or are sometimes taken as separate courses. People may need a whole day of practice or longer prior to getting CPR certification, which should be obtained from recognized agencies like the Red Cross. The big difference between CPR and first aid, in terms of taking classes, is that CPR focuses solely on learning to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and recognizing those instances in which it should be performed. First aid classes may teach this too, but they will teach in the broader context of how people need to respond to lots of different injuries or illness.

The issue of CPR and first aid may get confusing when people are asked to get training in one or both of these. Some people may be asked to take a first aid course and have CPR training. It’s certainly possible to get a single course to perform this training, or it may be necessary to take a couple of classes. Those who need more extensive training in standard first aid certainly won’t satisfy this need by only taking a CPR course. Those confused about what training they need should get this issue clear with the person (usually an employer) requesting the training.

What can be said generally about CPR and first aid are that they are two intimately related topics. Being able to respond first in a medical emergency usually means needing to know CPR, but other knowledge could be just as essential. For instance, how to stop profuse bleeding or how to handle an episode of anaphylactic shock could be vital too. Many people benefit from full training in first aid, and training is easy to obtain in a variety of places.


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