How to do CPR – step by step

Get Medical Information / Cindy Chang

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a practical emergency intervention used to restore breathing and heartbeat in a person in cardiac arrest. Common causes of cardiac arrest are a heart attack or nearsightedness and drowning.

CPR includes chest compression and, in some cases, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. These techniques can keep blood flowing to the brain and other organs until medical attention arrives. When oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the brain, brain damage can occur in a matter of minutes.

Anyone can learn CPR through an online seminar or face-to-face training. These are the basic principles and techniques for CPR.

What to do if someone needs CPR

Ideally, everyone should be trained in artificial respiration. Otherwise, you may be afraid to try to help someone in an emergency. However, it is always better to do what you can than to do nothing if it could save a person's life. The American Heart Association recommends a slightly different approach to performing CPR depending on how well prepared you are:

  • If you are trained: check if the person has a pulse and is breathing. If there is no pulse or respiration within 10 seconds, begin CPR with 30 chest compressions followed by two artificial breaths. Repeat the sequence until the person begins to breathe.
  • If you are not trained or trained, but are not overly confident in your abilities: If you have never trained in CPR or been given artificial respiration but are unsure, use hand-only CPR . Hands-only CPR involves continuous chest compressions of 100 to 120 per minute until an ambulance arrives. Does not include artificial respiration in this technique.

If you haven't received CPR training or are uncomfortable doing CPR, just keep pressing on your chest until help arrives.

What to do before receiving CPR

Timing is important, but before attempting CPR on someone, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the environment is safe . Fire, traffic accidents, or other hazards can be life-threatening.
  2. Try to wake the person up . Give the person a hard pat on the shoulder and ask, "Are you okay?" loudly. Continue with the following steps after five seconds of trying to wake the patient.
  3. Call 911 . Whenever the patient is not awake, call 911 immediately or have someone else call. Even if you are going to perform artificial respiration at the scene, it is important that paramedics get to the scene as soon as possible.
  4. Place the person on their back . If the person may have suffered a spinal injury, gently rotate the spine without moving the head or neck.
  5. Check your breathing . Tilt the patient's head back to open the airway and determine if they are breathing. If the patient does not inhale after 10 seconds, start CPR.

How to do CPR

Once you've followed the steps above, here's how to perform CPR. The techniques differ slightly depending on the age of the person.


The following steps apply to both adults and children over 8 years of age.

  1. Place your hands on the person's chest . Imagine the line between the nipples and place the heel of one hand directly on this line, in the center of the chest (that is, on the sternum ). Place your other hand on top of that hand. Center your weight directly on your arms.
  2. Compress your chest . Press firmly at least 2 inches deep (but no more than 2.4 inches) and rapidly, approximately twice per second, until the person responds. Your arms should not bounce, but you should take all of your body weight off the patient between each squeeze.
  3. Give artificial respiration . If you have completed CPR training and are comfortable with the steps, press down on your chest 30 times and then take two artificial breaths.
  4. Repeat Repeat cycles of 30 chest compressions and two breaths until help arrives or the patient awakens.

Children from 1 to 8 years

CPR for a child between the ages of 1 and 8 is essentially the same as for an adult.

  1. Place your hands on the baby's chest . Place two hands (or one hand if the baby is very young) on the baby's breastbone.
  2. Compress your chest . Press firmly at least 2 inches deep (but no more than 2.4 inches) and rapidly, approximately twice per second, until the person responds.
  3. Give artificial respiration . If you have completed CPR training and are comfortable with the steps, press down on your chest 30 times and then take two artificial breaths.
  4. Repeat Repeat cycles of 30 chest compressions and two breaths until help arrives or the patient awakens.


  1. Click on the sole of your foot to trigger a response . This replaces shaking the shoulders of the older person.
  2. Place two fingers of one hand in the center of your chest .
  3. Compress your chest. Gently squeeze your chest about 1.5 inches deep with your fingers. Perform two contractions per second, as if you were giving CPR to an adult.
  4. Give artificial respiration . If you are comfortable with CPR, do two of them between each set of 30 chest compressions, as if you were doing it with an older person.

What each step does

Each step in CPR has an important purpose. This is what they all do:

We ask if everything is alright

Before attempting CPR, it is important to make sure that the person really needs it. If the person wakes up when you gently shake them and speak to them, do not initiate CPR, seek medical attention immediately, especially if they seem confused or unable to speak.

Call 911

Even if you end up reviving the CPR survivor, they will need to be taken to the hospital by ambulance as soon as possible. If it fails, the emergency department can resuscitate the person with medical equipment such as an automated external defibrillator (AED). The EMT can also talk with you about how to perform CPR steps while you are on your way.

Breast compression

Compression of the chest moves the blood through the brain, making it work until the heart begins to work again. It is very important to maintain a continuous blood flow. You can resuscitate someone with a chest compression (without artificial respiration).

Rescue breath

Rescue breathing, formerly known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, is designed to use your own breath to fill a person's lungs with air and restore their ability to breathe.

Rescue breathing has become one of the most controversial steps in CPR. There is an ongoing debate about how much is enough (or too much) and if it is necessary. If you do CPR, make sure you know how to do it correctly.

How to get certified

You can become certified in CPR by completing the requirements of the CPR training program. These programs are offered in person, online, or as a hybrid of both.

Classes usually last two hours, depending on the format you choose (since you can go at your own pace with the online training). Upon completion of the course, you will be able to receive a certificate.

Hospitals, community centers, and national organizations such as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer CPR training courses.

Not all CPR classes are the same. There are CPR classes for healthcare professionals, as well as CPR classes for non-specialists. Before taking a CPR course, make sure it is right for you.

Frequently asked questions

What does CPR mean?

CPR – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. "Cardio" refers to the heart and "pulmonary" refers to the lungs. CPR is used when someone's heart and breathing have stopped.

When was CPR invented?

CPR was invented in 1960 when a team of three physicians combined mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with chest compressions to create life-saving procedures associated with CPR.

How long does CPR certification take?

Most face-to-face classes can be completed in approximately two hours. If you choose a class with an online learning component, you can go at your own pace. After completing all the requirements, you will receive a certificate.

Where should you place your hands when compressing a baby's chest during CPR?

The location is the same as in adults: in the center of the chest, between the nipples. The difference is that with a baby, you only use two fingers instead of your hands to compress the breast.

Related Articles
Foods to Avoid If You Have Dry Mouth From Radiation

Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a common side effect of radiation therapy for people undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer. Read more

Thyroid adenoma: Causes, Treatment, and Diagnosis

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your throat that produces hormones affecting a number of Read more

NSAIDs and You Thyroid Function

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most frequently taken over-the-counter medications. Due to their systemic or whole body effects, it's Read more

How Doctors Are Failing Thyroid Disease Patients

The thyroid disease community has continually mentioned the lack of support they experience and the difficulty they have navigating the Read more