The ABCs of CPR

  • Health
  • Thursday, 01 Nov 2018

These days, many public buildings have an AED on every floor.

Just the other day, I was on a commuter train that hit a person on the track. The train screeched to a halt, and indeed, someone lay prone on the track. The conductor called for someone to perform CPR on the victim. I wanted to volunteer, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is also called first aid.

You don’t have to be a doctor or healthcare professional to be able to do CPR. You can learn to do it from a very young age.

Even if you are not trained and not confident in doing it, you can always help when someone is in need.

In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that everybody – yes, that includes you who don’t know how to do anything! – should begin CPR by simply doing chest compressions on a victim.

It can actually mean saving someone’s life rather than standing around being uncertain.

Wait. So you want me to do chest compressions only? I watch a lot of TV shows, and they do more than chest compressions. They also do the ‘kiss of life’ or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Here’s what you should do if you are completely not trained: HANDS ONLY CPR.

This means just do chest compressions at around 100 to 120 times a minute without trying to breathe into the patient’s mouth until someone more qualified arrives.

If you are trained, then you can do more. You can check the patient for a pulse at his neck and check whether he is breathing.

If there is no pulse and the patient isn’t breathing, then you can start chest compressions. Do 30 chest compressions before giving two rescue breaths through the patient’s mouth.

If you have been trained before but have forgotten/are panicking that you have forgotten, then just do chest compressions like the untrained.

CPR, first aid, drowning, AED,
First, check the person’s airways and make sure nothing is blocking the nose and mouth.

Right. OK. So I should have done something. But I want to learn to do it properly from now on. How does CPR help the victim?

CPR can jump-start the heart’s rhythm.

And even if it doesn’t, at least the very act of compressing the chest can compress the heart muscles and squeeze out oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain, liver and other vital organs.

When the heart stops, it also stops supplying oxygenated blood to the body.

This can cause permanent brain damage within a few minutes, and death can happen after eight to 10 minutes.

Please give me a crash course.

Nothing substitutes an actual course, but these are the things you should be doing.

Just remember: A - B - C

Before beginning CPR, check if the surrounding environment is safe. For example, if there is a snake next to you, get the victim and yourself into safety first!

Then check if the patient is conscious or unconscious. Always tap and call the person, “Hello? Are you OK?” and wait for a response.

If there is no response, then the person is unconscious. If you have access to a phone (especially your mobile phone), call the emergency line (999 in Malaysia, or 112 globally for mobile phones only) before beginning CPR.

That way, you know trained help is coming even if you cannot revive the person.

If there are two of you, one person can call emergency while the other person can begin CPR.

You can also check if there is an AED (automated external defibrillator) device nearby.

CPR, first aid, heart attack, AED,
If you are not trained, just do chest compressions at around 100 to 120 times a minute without trying to breathe into the patient’s mouth until someone more qualified arrives.

What does A - B - C stand for?




The American Heart Association reverses this and says CAB, because they want you to start compression first. I learned it as ABC. Well, as long as you know what to do.

First, you have to check the patient’s airways and make sure nothing is blocking the nose and mouth. If there is, remove it. Many times, the patient’s tongue might be obstructing his own airflow.

Put the patient on his back on a firm surface, like the ground or floor.

Kneel at his side, next to his neck and shoulder. Place the palm of your hand on his chest between his nipples, and place your other hand on top of your hand.

Then press his chest straight down by at least two inches. You won’t break the sternum this way. Do this 30 times.

Then tilt his head back and open his jaw. Pinch his nostrils shut and cover his mouth completely with yours, sealing it.

Breathe into the patient’s lungs for one second, and see if his chest rises. Breathe a second time. Don’t breathe too long or more than two times.

Begin your chest compressions again. If there is an AED available, apply the defibrillator as per the instructions.

After one shock, resume CPR. After two minutes, apply a second shock. Continue CPR till paramedics arrive.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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The ABCs of CPR


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