Guidelines to Child CPR/AED Care: Key Differences with Adult CPR

guide child cpr aed care

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, or CPR, is a life-saving technique that can be the difference between a victim’s survival and death in situations involving cardiac arrest, choking, or drowning. Learning basic first aid and CPR skills are crucial, not just for healthcare professionals but for everyone. Whether you’re at home or outside, these skills can help you handle emergency situations confidently and effectively.

Learning these essential skills is not as daunting as it may seem. With various online and offline courses available, one can become proficient in basic first aid and CPR within a few hours to a couple of days. These courses frequently cover fracture care, bleeding control, and the identification of internal and external injuries. They also cover the basics of managing medical, injury, and environmental emergencies.

Lifesaving CPR skills are essential. But before you learn this life-saving technique, keep in mind that there are some key distinctions between CPR for adults and children.

The Importance of Differentiating Child and Adult CPR

Recent studies and statistics highlight the importance of differentiating between adult and child CPR. Children differ significantly from adults in terms of their anatomy and physiology, which can significantly affect how well CPR works. Using the same force or technique of adult CPR on a child can result in harm, emphasizing the need for specialized training in pediatric CPR.

Defining ‘Child’ in CPR/AED Care and Differences Between Adult and Pediatric CPR

When it comes to CPR/AED care, understanding the differences between a child, an infant, and an adult is crucial. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Age Group Definitions:


Generally speaking, a baby is defined as someone under one year old. Because of their small size and delicate bodies, infants require special care during CPR. The chest compressions should only be done using two fingers, not the whole hand, as they are done for adults and children.


A person is considered a child if they are one year old or younger when puberty starts. Children have distinct anatomical and physiological traits that set them apart from other small adults. Because of this, the techniques used in performing CPR on children differ slightly from those used on adults.


An adult is anyone who has reached puberty or is over 8 years old. This is the group for which most people are trained to perform CPR, with two hands used for chest compressions and a deeper compression depth.

3 Differences in CPR Procedures for Children and Adults:

Force of Chest Compressions

The force used in chest compressions varies between adults and children. Adults need to be compressed firmly and forcefully enough to depress their chests by at least two inches. However, children need gentler force, with the goal of depressing the chest by about 1.5 inches.

Depth of Chest Compressions

While an adult requires chest compressions that are at least 2 inches deep, a child’s compressions should only be about 1.5 inches deep. This is due to the fact that children’s organs are more sensitive and smaller, making excessive force potentially harmful.

Ratio of Compressions to Breaths

In certain situations, adults can perform hands-only CPR, which entails chest compressions continuously without using rescue breaths. Still, children should always be given rescue breaths in addition to chest compressions. This is because children’s cardiac arrests often result from respiratory problems, so they need the oxygen from rescue breaths.

2 Differences in CPR Care to an Unresponsive Choking Infant

When dealing with an unresponsive, choking infant, there are two key differences compared to performing CPR on adults or older children:

Chest Compressions

For infants, use two fingers (the index and middle fingers) to deliver chest compressions instead of the heel of your hand. With your fingers positioned in the middle of the baby’s chest, slightly below the nipple line, apply compressions that are roughly 1.5 inches deep.

Rescue Breaths

When giving rescue breaths to an infant, cover the infant’s mouth and nose with your mouth (instead of just the mouth as in adults or older children). Deliver gentle puffs of air to fill the infant’s lungs, watching for the chest to rise.

When is CPR Necessary for Adults?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is a life-saving procedure performed on someone whose breathing or heartbeat has stopped. Here are the situations in which an adult may need CPR:

Cardiac Arrest

This is the most common scenario where CPR is needed. When the heart stops beating unexpectedly, blood flow to the brain and other essential organs is cut off, leading to cardiac arrest.


If an adult is choking and loses consciousness, immediate initiation of CPR is required to restore oxygen flow.


An individual who has been rescued from drowning but isn’t breathing or has abnormal breathing requires immediate CPR.

Drug Overdose

In severe cases of drug overdose, the person might stop breathing or become unresponsive. In such cases, CPR becomes necessary.

Suffocation or Electrocution

Any situation that cuts off a person’s oxygen supply, like suffocation or electrocution, can lead to unresponsiveness or abnormal breathing. In these cases, CPR should be started immediately.

When is CPR Necessary for Children?

In children, the need for CPR is often due to respiratory issues leading to cardiac arrest. Here are some instances where a child may need CPR:

Respiratory Arrest

This can occur due to a severe asthma attack, choking, an allergic reaction, or a respiratory infection that causes the child to stop breathing.


Similar to adults, a child who has been rescued from water but is not breathing or is breathing abnormally requires immediate CPR.

Poisoning or Drug Overdose

Accidental ingestion of harmful substances can cause a child to become unresponsive or to stop breathing, necessitating the use of CPR.


This can occur due to various reasons, like choking on food or small objects, getting trapped in refrigerators or car trunks, or from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Traumatic Injury or Accident

Serious injuries or accidents can cause a child’s heart to stop, in which case CPR would be needed immediately.

In all these situations, immediate action is crucial. If you’re ever unsure if someone needs CPR, it’s better to do it just in case. The American Heart Association recommends beginning CPR with chest compressions and not waiting for professional help to arrive.

The Importance of CPR Knowledge and Professional Training

In an emergency, knowing when and how to perform CPR on adults and children can literally mean the difference between life and death. This guide provides a basic understanding of the scenarios where CPR may be necessary and highlights the key differences in techniques when handling infants, children, and adults.

However, it is important to remember that, while this information can help you grasp the basics, there’s no substitute for professional training. Attending a certified CPR course conducted by trained professionals will provide hands-on practice, detailed instructions, and immediate feedback, all of which are essential for mastering these life-saving skills.

Furthermore, no matter how adept you become at performing CPR, always remember to call 911 immediately in any emergency situation. Professional medical help is crucial to ensuring the best possible outcome.

In the end, our communities become safer the more people who are trained in CPR. So take the time to get trained, refresh your skills regularly, and encourage others to do the same. A little time spent now could potentially save a life in the future.

Scroll to Top