CPR First Aid

Publication Date: 
Mon, 02/01/2016
By: Alere Staff


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, can be a lifesaving technique if done correctly. Perhaps you even know someone that has had their life saved by CPR. Early recognition of dangerous cardiac symptoms is helpful, as it is much better to prevent the need for CPR whenever possible.


Spotting the Symptoms First

Many health conditions put patients at risk of having an event which would lead to needing CPR. If someone is having the following symptoms they should seek medical attention immediately:

  • Chest Pain: This is a sign that your heart isn’t getting the amount of blood it needs to function. Some people experience pressure instead of pain, or pain in the neck, jaw or shoulders or upper back. This pain or discomfort often comes on with exertion and is relieved by rest. If you feel even mild chest pain, especially if you’re resting, don’t take a chance and address the problem immediately.
  • Shortness of Breath: This may be another sign that your organs are not getting enough oxygen and your lungs have to work harder. Especially if this is associated with chest pain or discomfort. 
  • Excessive Sweating: If you are not participating in vigorous exercise, you should not be sweating excessively. This symptom rarely presents by itself and usually follows the chest pain and/or shortness of breath.
  • Mid-Upper Back Pain: The pain is commonly sharp or achy in nature and may not be constant.
  • Abdominal Pain: This symptom is particularly true for women.
  • Difficulty Speaking: In the beginning stages, difficulty speaking can be mistaken for a person just trying to figure out the correct word or phrase. However, the situation can escalate quickly and could be the sign of a stroke.
  • Sudden Collapsing or Fainting: If a person suddenly collapses they may be experiencing a stroke with one side of the body partially or completely paralyzed. If the person faints, it may be the sign of a heart attack.

Administering CPR

There are times when you can be alerted to the symptoms, but you may still need to perform CPR. If a person collapses or faints, not breathing and does not have a pulse, CPR may be required. There are a variety of websites and community classes that offer ways to become certified in CPR. However, if you are not certified, the American Heart Association’s instructions for CPR include:

  • If you are not sure if the person is unconscious, try to rouse them and ask them loudly if they are okay.
  • If you receive no response, call 911 and begin with chest compressions. You want to push hard and fast, allowing for full recoil of the chest. Otherwise, the heart won’t be able to fully refill with blood. Try to do around two to three chest compressions a second.
  • If the person is having a heart problem, it is now recommended to not do rescue breathing whether or not the person is breathing. This part of CPR is to be reserved for those who are certified. Also, with heart conditions, taking that pause from chest compressions may actually be worse for the patient.
  • Continue administering chest compressions until the person regains consciousness or when the paramedics arrive.

If you, or someone you know, are at risk for heart failure and other complications, it is always good to be aware and prepared.

Interested in learning more? Check out these other articles on first aid:


  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Diseases and Conditions: Heart Failure. Mayo Clinic.  August 18, 2015. Retrieved from the website:http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/basics/symptoms/con-20029801.
  2. Wedro,B., MD, FACEP, FAAEM. Chest Pain. MedicineNet.com. November 2, 2015. Retrieved from the website:http://www.medicinenet.com/chest_pain/page2.htm.
  3. Ewy, G.A. MD. New Concepts of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for the Lay Public. Circulation. 2007; 116:e566-e568. Retrieved from the website: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/116/25/e566.full.
  4. Alberts VP, Bos MJ, Koudstaal PJ, et al. Heart failure and the risk of stroke: the Rotterdam Study. European Journal of Epidemiology. 2010;25(11):807-812. doi:10.1007/s10654-010-9520-y.