Unconscious and not breathing - children
If a child does not respond to the sound of your voice or to
gentle pressure applied to their body, it is likely they are
In this context, 'child' refers to anyone between the age of one
and puberty. It is neither necessary nor appropriate to check if a
child has reached puberty.
Recogntion and treatment
- To confirm if the child is unconscious
and not breathing complete the steps of
the primary survey - Danger, Response,
Airway, Breathing (DRAB)
- If an AED is available refer
to the steps for using an AED.
Check for danger
- Are you or they in any danger?
- If you have not already done so make the area safe and then
- If a child is drowning, only enter the water
to rescue them if it is safe to do so, you have been trained to do
so, and they are unconscious. Dial 999/112 for emegency help
immediately for drowning victims.
Check for a response
- Shout a command at them:
- 'Can you hear me?'
- 'Open your eyes'
- Gently shake their shoulders
- If they respond, refer to the treatment for someone
unconscious but breathing - children
- Shout for help.
Open the airway
- Help them to breath by opening their airway
- To do this, place one hand on the forehead and using two
fingers lift the chin.
- Position your cheek close to their mouth
- Look, listen and feel for no more than 10 seconds:
- look to see if the chest is rising and falling
- listen for breathing
- feel the breath against your cheek
- If they are not breathing commence cardiopulmonary
Call for help
- If you have someone with you, send them to dial
999 (or 112) for an ambulance
- If you are on your own carry out
CPR for one
minute before dialling 999 (or 112) for an ambulance.
Give 5 rescue breaths
- Ensure the airway is open
- Seal your lips around the child's mouth and
- Blow gently into their lungs, looking along the chest as you
- As the chest rises, stop blowing and allow it to fall
- Repeat this five times.
Give 30 compressions
- Place one or two hands in the centre of the chest (depending on
the size of the child) - it is
possible to identify the correct hand position without removing the
- Use the heel of that hand with arms straight and press down to
a third of the depth of the chest
- Press 30 times, at a rate of 100-120 compressions per
- After 30 compressions, give 2 rescue
- Continue resuscitation, 30 compressions to 2 rescue
- Do not stop unless:
- emergency help arrives and takes over
- they show signs of recovery such as coughing, opening eyes,
speaking or moving purposefully and breathing normally
- you become so exhausted that you cannot carry on.
More information about unconscious not breathing children
(CPR) is a
technique whereby oxygen is pumped around the body using a
combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths.
If you are familiar with adult
have no knowledge of child CPR, use the adult
Unable, unwilling or untrained to give rescue breaths
- Give chest compressions only and continue at a rate of
100-120 per minute (about the speed of the song 'Staying
Two trained rescuers
- Change every two
minutes with minimal disruption.
This is common in the first few minutes after a sudden cardiac
arrest. It usually takes the form of sudden irregular gasps for
breath. It should not be mistaken for normal breathing and if it is
present chest compressions and rescue breaths (together called
cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR) should be started
Take a first aid course
The advice provided in this section is no substitute for proper
first aid training.
St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the
country. The following courses cover this topic:
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