The ABCs of CPR: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation

We are living in a digital age, and it's one of the most exciting times in human history. However, there is one thing about the digital age that troubles me: many people I know don't know how to do CPR. It's true! I was at a friend's wedding recently and witnessed an emergency situation where one of the guests went into cardiac arrest. The issue wasn't an emergency defibrillator (which thankfully was on hand), but rather that no one knew how to perform CPR properly. That is why I am going to share with you today some basic guidelines for what should be done when someone goes into cardiac arrest: Airway Breathing Circulation


An airway is the passage through which air moves in and out of the lungs. It consists of the nose, mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), and trachea. The tongue is the most common cause of airway obstruction by blocking off your child's throat. To prevent this from happening:

  • Don't give honey until 1 year old because it can cause botulism poisoning in infants younger than 12 months old who eat foods with honey in them; also don't give children under 1 year any foods or liquids that contain raw eggs because they may contain salmonella bacteria that cause food poisoning if swallowed by young children.
  • If you notice symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea after eating raw eggs from poultry farms infected with avian influenza virus H5N1 (bird flu), consult your doctor immediately as these could be signs of infection caused by viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).


Breathing is the process by which oxygen enters your body and carbon dioxide leaves it. If you aren't breathing, your brain will be deprived of oxygen and you will die within minutes.

If you aren't trained in CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), then chest compressions should be performed while waiting for help to arrive. Chest compressions provide an alternate source of circulation by pumping blood through the heart and lungs until medical professionals are able to assist the patient with further treatment or resuscitation efforts.

To perform chest compressions: Place both hands on top of one another directly over the center of your patient's chest just below their ribs--you should feel two bones there; if not, adjust accordingly so that both hands are placed directly over each other with arms locked straight (like forming a triangle). Make sure that no clothing gets in between either hand/arm/shoulder so nothing interferes with compression depth measurement accuracy levels when performing CPR procedures correctly! Then press down hard enough so as not only to feel but see movement occur underneath each hand when applying pressure during cardiac arrest situations where there isn't any external bleeding present yet still requires immediate attention before permanent organ damage occurs due to lack thereof being treated quickly enough after initial onset symptoms start showing up."


  • If a patient's heart has stopped beating, you can check for a pulse by placing two fingers at the neck and feeling for the carotid artery.
  • If there is no pulse or if you're not sure about it, start chest compressions immediately.
  • If there is a pulse but no breathing (or you're not sure), continue to monitor the patient's condition while waiting for help to arrive.
  • If the patient is breathing but still unconscious or unresponsive, continue to monitor them until help arrives; then perform rescue breaths every 5 seconds until medical professionals arrive on the scene--the sooner you start CPR and rescue breathing with an AED, the better chance someone will survive!


  • If you see someone having a heart attack:
  • Help them to lie down and raise their feet.
  • Call 911, then start chest compressions.
  • Perform CPR on adults with an AED:
  • Push hard enough so that you feel your palm move inward about 1/2 an inch (1 cm) when you push down on the chest wall during each compression cycle of 30 compressions followed by two breaths; then repeat this cycle until help arrives or the person regains consciousness. If they regain consciousness, continue CPR until medical help arrives and takes over care of him/her.
  • When performing CPR on children: The best way to perform CPR is to use a child-sized resuscitator mask instead of mouth-to-mouth breathing because it provides oxygen more effectively than mouth-to-mouth breathing alone does. In addition to learning how to perform CPR yourself, becoming certified in first aid might be helpful because it could save your life someday--or somebody else's!


CPR is a lifesaving skill, and it's important to know how to perform it. The ABCs of CPR can help you remember what steps to take in an emergency situation. You may not know how long someone has been without breathing or whether they have a pulse, but if they are conscious then they need airway clearance (pressure on the chest) before any other interventions such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or chest compressions.


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