As most of us are aware, COVID-19 can be contracted by coming into contact with droplets of bodily fluid from an infected person. Performing chest compressions as part of CPR can mobilize droplets, much like coughing can. Since even asymptomatic people can carry and spread the virus, it is nearly impossible for a bystander to determine their risk of contracting the virus when intervening and performing CPR. If a bystander did nothing other than activating EMS, the victim’s chances of survival would be very low, while intervention would substantially improve the odds. However, it would also increase the rescuer’s risk of exposure to COVID-19. Ultimately the decision to act or not act is a difficult and personal one. If you determine that you need to respond, we recommend the following steps.
- After the event has ended, use appropriate disinfectants to clean the area, and wash your hands thoroughly. Avoid touching your face, and consider showering, washing your clothes and disinfecting your shoes when you get home.
For children who require CPR, the best practice is to provide compressions and ventilations; this is because the most common cause of pediatric cardiac emergencies is respiratory distress resulting from events such as choking or drowning. However, without a proper barrier, such as a pocket mask or BVM, compression-only CPR can be performed.4 Most children or infants whose heart has stopped are given CPR by a family member or friend; if you are unrelated to the child you will need to decide for yourself whether or not to perform rescue breaths.
The use of AEDs during the COVID-19 pandemic remains unchanged. AEDs should be applied as soon as possible in these emergencies according to your training and the AED’s prompts.