How To Check Pulse?

In emergency situations, knowing how to check a person's pulse is a fundamental skill that can make a life-saving difference. Whether you are a fitness trainer or an individual looking to be prepared for unforeseen events, being able to assess someone's pulse is crucial for evaluating their condition and providing appropriate care.

This guide will walk you through the steps of how to check a pulse accurately and why it's essential to have this skill in your arsenal, especially if you hold a certification from MyCPR NOW or a similar recognized organization.

Why Checking a Pulse Matters

A person's pulse is an indicator of their circulatory system's functioning. It reflects the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to vital organs and tissues. In emergency situations, assessing the pulse provides critical information about the individual's overall condition.

Here are some key reasons why checking a pulse is vital:

  1. Assessment of Circulation: A pulse check allows you to assess whether the heart is beating and pumping blood effectively. A strong and regular pulse indicates good circulation, while a weak or irregular pulse may suggest circulation problems.
  2. Response to Interventions: After administering First Aid or CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), checking the pulse helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your actions. If the pulse becomes stronger or more regular, it's a positive sign that your interventions are working.
  3. Determination of Heart Rate: The pulse rate (number of beats per minute) can provide essential information about the person's heart rate. Abnormally high or low pulse rates may indicate various medical conditions or emergencies.
  4. Decision-Making: When you're the first responder in an emergency, knowing how to check a pulse helps you make informed decisions about the necessary actions. It guides you in deciding whether to perform CPR, provide first aid, or call for professional medical help.

Steps to Check a Pulse

Checking a pulse is a straightforward process, but it requires focus and attention to detail. Here's how to do it:

1. Find the Pulse Point

The first step is to locate the pulse point where you will check for the pulse. There are several common pulse points in the body:

  • Radial Pulse: Located on the wrist, on the thumb side. To find it, place your index and middle fingers just below the base of the thumb.
  • Carotid Pulse: Located on the neck, on either side of the windpipe (trachea). To find it, place your index and middle fingers on the side of the neck, between the windpipe and the muscles.
  • Brachial Pulse: Located inside the upper arm, between the bicep and tricep muscles. To find it, place your index and middle fingers on the inner part of the upper arm, just above the elbow crease.
  • Femoral Pulse: Located in the groin area, midway between the hip bone and the pubic bone. To find it, place your index and middle fingers in the crease of the groin.

2. Use Proper Technique

Once you've located the pulse point, use proper technique to check the pulse:

  • Place your fingers (index and middle) gently on the pulse point. Avoid using your thumb, as it has its own pulse and may give inaccurate readings.
  • Apply light pressure. You should be able to feel the pulse without pressing too hard. Pressing too firmly can temporarily block blood flow and give a false reading.

3. Count the Beats

With your fingers in place, count the number of beats (pulses) for a full minute. Alternatively, you can count the beats for 15 seconds and then multiply by four to get the beats per minute.

4. Assess the Pulse

While counting the beats, pay attention to the following:

  • Rate: Is the pulse rate within a normal range (usually 60 to 100 beats per minute for adults)? A rate significantly above or below this range may be a cause for concern.
  • Rhythm: Is the pulse regular, with consistent intervals between beats, or is it irregular? An irregular pulse may indicate an underlying heart condition.
  • Strength: Is the pulse strong and easily felt, or is it weak and difficult to detect? A weak pulse may suggest poor circulation or shock.

When to Check a Pulse

Knowing when to check a pulse is essential. Here are some situations in which you should assess a person's pulse:

  • Unconsciousness: If someone is unconscious, check their pulse to determine if they have a heartbeat. If not, you may need to perform CPR.
  • Cardiac Arrest: In cases of suspected cardiac arrest, checking the pulse is a crucial step to determine if the heart has stopped beating.
  • After an Injury: If someone has sustained a severe injury or trauma, checking their pulse can help assess their overall condition.
  • During First Aid: While providing First Aid, it's essential to check the pulse periodically to monitor the person's response to your interventions.
  • Before and After CPR: When performing CPR, check the pulse before starting compressions and periodically during the process to assess its effectiveness.


Knowing how to check a pulse is a fundamental skill that every responder, whether certified by MyCPR NOW or not, should possess. It provides valuable information about a person's circulatory system and guides decision-making in emergency situations.

Remember to stay calm and focused when checking a pulse, use the appropriate technique, and pay attention to the rate, rhythm, and strength of the pulse. Regular practice and ongoing education in First Aid and CPR can help you maintain and enhance this vital skill, ensuring that you can respond effectively and confidently when it matters most.

By mastering the art of checking a pulse, you become a more capable and prepared individual, ready to make a positive impact in times of crisis and contribute to the well-being of those around you.

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