How to perform CPR during COVID pandemic: AHA updates guidelines

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DALLAS, Texas — Performing CPR can be a split-second decision that saves a life, but are people becoming more fearful of giving first aid during the coronavirus pandemic? A new report by researchers with the American Heart Association is unveiling updated CPR guidelines which take into account COVID-19’s more contagious variants like Delta and Omicron.

With the threat of COVID infection looming over every close contact, especially between patients and health care professionals, the report in the AHA journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes includes three key updates in CPR guidance.

PPE is vital when performing CPR

First, researchers say all health care workers and first responders should be following the CDC and World Health Organization’s latest guidelines. This includes wearing a respirator mask (or N95 mask) as well as other personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a gown, gloves, and eye protection when interacting with patients who could possibly have COVID-19.

When performing chest compressions, defibrillation, ventilation, intubation, or other procedures which produce aerosol particles, the guidelines also urge health care providers to use bag-masks to provide oxygen.

“Health care professionals are paramount to the health of communities around the world, especially during a pandemic, and they should be protected while performing health care procedures including resuscitation,” says lead author Dianne Atkins, M.D., FAAP, volunteer chair of the American Heart Association Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee, in a media release.

“Protecting the health and safety of health care professionals remains critical and includes ensuring the recommended personal protective equipment is available and that health care professionals are trained to use it properly.”

Reinforcing the importance of practicing CPR properly

The report also discovered that cardiac arrest survival rates have fallen dramatically during the pandemic. This includes more patients dying of cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, regardless of that area’s COVID infection rate. Study authors add the reason for this concerning trend is still unclear, however, they say starting CPR right away is the key to saving someone in cardiac arrest. This includes starting chest compressions as soon as possible.

Researchers recommend that health care workers begin CPR compressions as soon as they put on PPE, if they’re not already wearing it. The report notes that people with COVID-19 also need the “best resuscitative efforts possible” in order to survive their illness.

PPE supplies must remain high

Lastly, the report details the critical need for adequate supplies of PPE for all health care workers during the pandemic. The team notes that all providers should have access to PPE, regardless of their individual chances of needing to perform CPR. Along with stocking up on PPE, the report recommends that health officials ensure providers are receiving appropriate training in how to use and wear PPE.

Previous studies have found that mouth-to-mouth breathing is not a necessity during CPR. In fact, researchers in Spain found that chest compressions alone may be just as effective as conventional CPR with mouth-to-mouth.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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