AED articles

How to Use an AED on an Infant

Can you use an AED (automated external defibrillator) on an infant? Yes, you can! Not only that, instead of using adult pads, there are specially-made pediatric pads just for use on a child or infant in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

These pediatric pads are smaller than adult pads. They also deliver a lesser energy level shock when connected to a machine built to perform defibrillation for children as well as adults.

What to Do if a Child Collapses

The Chain of Survival -- image courtesy of Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

If a child collapses, you must decide if the emergency is a sudden cardiac arrest. While it is unusual, a child’s heart rhythm can go into fibrillation. Prompt recognition of the possible need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of an automated external defibrillator is essential to save lives. This is true of infants, older children, and adults.

Related Article: How to Use an AED on a Pregnant Woman

When to Apply CPR and AED

A young person who has collapsed and is unresponsive, not breathing, and has no carotid pulse needs a rescuer’s quick action to have any chance at survival.  Start CPR (begin chest compressions) and have someone call 911!

Infant CPR is  essentially the same as CPR for adults suffering cardiac arrest, but takes into account the child’s more delicate bones and tissues, and the need for rescue breaths in addition to chest compressions. The chest compressions are given at the same rate as for adults, but are interrupted for giving puffs of air to fill the child’s lungs.

Adult CPR/AED services can be administered without doing rescue breathing in cases of adult cardiac arrest. However, doing rescue breathing, adjusted for the child’s smaller lungs, is essential for infants and children. Then use an AED with pediatric pads as soon as possible.

Today’s Automated External Defibrillators

It is best to take a CPR/AED course, such as those offered by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association, even if one takes the class online instead of on location. However, do not hesitate to use an AED even if you have never practiced AED use.

AEDs Guide the User to Deliver a Shock

The AED itself will give instructions, guiding you step-by-step. It will show the correct location and attachment of the pads (lower left chest and upper right chest for young children; or, for infants, place one pad on the chest and the other pad on the back).

It will also tell when to be “hands off” and let the AED analyze the heart rhythm, and if a shock is needed, will show a flashing shock button. The AED delivers that shock through the electrode pads only if the heart  needs it.

Amazing Features of A Modern AED

Newer AEDs are very sophisticated, allowing a person to give first aid on par with services initially given a patient receiving hospital services with a doctor-operated manual defibrillator.  Not only delivering an electric shock, a new AED also may:

  • Include its own self-diagnostic to check electrodes, batteries, and other functions so it is always ready for use (NOTE: it is important to check any AED directly for readiness at least once a month).
  • Automatically adjust the shock once the smaller AED pads especially made for infants and children are attached.

  • Once activated, give text and voice commands in different languages.
  • Combine normally separated electrodes into one assembly, specially designed to eliminate user error when placing pads on the chest–especially important for use with children.
  • Show graphics for AED setup and also indicate the need for CPR, guiding the rescuer in rate and depth of each chest compression through real-time audio-visual feedback.
  • Automatically give one or more shocks if needed, and after going through the “shock” sequence, tell if and when to resume CPR and/or shock again.

When it comes to extra features that aid a lay rescuer, help with CPR timing and techniques is most important.  One of the most developed AED’s in this regard is made by ZOLL, a pioneer in AED development; adaptations of the AED for pediatric use are very advanced on this AED machine.

Differences Between Adult and Child CPR/AED

It is helpful to be aware that chest compressions and defibrillation can be performed on children.  Better yet is knowledge and training in rescue from SCA. It is helpful to keep a few facts in mind:

Three different hand/finger positions should be used for chest compressions on children. For a larger child, use two hands. If just a small child one hand, and for infant CPR, two thumbs.

There are specialized pediatric AED pads which give a lesser shock than adult pads will. Some AED’s also have special child settings, often activated by a switch or by inserting a special “key”.

When placing electrode pads on children, both go on the front. On infants, one pad is placed on the front, the other on the back to assure the pads do not contact one another.

Links: Top AED Machines Adapted for Children

AED/CPR Training

American Red Cross, a long established leader in public education in first aid techniques, provides low-cost classes in virtually all communities.

American Heart Association, actually the “world leader in CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care”.

You can sign up for AED and CPR training with either of these organizations through Heartsmart CPR / AED training course packages.

Life or Death Decision

Bystander Use of AEDs Could Double the Number of Survivors | Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation

SCA demands quick decision-making and fast action. Lay bystanders responding rapidly make a surprising difference in the survival of SCA victims, whatever their ages. The more knowledge and training one has, the more likely a life will be saved!

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