How to Administer CPR to an adult

CPR steps: Quick reference

Use CPR when an adult is not breathing or when they are only gasping occasionally, and when they are not responding to questions or taps on the shoulder.

In children and infants, use CPR when they are not breathing normally and not responding.

Check that the area is safe, then perform the following basic CPR steps:

  1. Call 911 or ask someone else to.
  2. Lay the person on their back and open their airway.
  3. Check for breathing. If they are not breathing, start CPR.
  4. Perform 30 chest compressions.
  5. Perform two rescue breaths.
  6. Repeat until an ambulance or automated external defibrillator (AED) arrives.

Read on for more detailed descriptions of how to perform CPR in adults, children, and infants.

CPR step-by-step

There are two main stages to CPR: the preparation stage and the CPR stage.

Preparation steps

Before performing CPR on an adult, use the following preparation steps:

Step 1. Call 911

First, check the scene for factors that could put you in danger, such as traffic, fire, or falling masonry. Next, check the person. Do they need help? Tap their shoulder and shout, “Are you OK?”

If they are not responding, call 911 or ask a bystander to call 911 before performing CPR. If possible, ask a bystander to go and search for an AED machine. People can find these in offices and many other public buildings.

Step 2. Place the person on their back and open their airway

Place the person carefully on their back and kneel beside their chest. Tilt their head back slightly by lifting their chin.

Open their mouth and check for any obstruction, such as food or vomit. Remove any obstruction if it is loose. If it is not loose, trying to grasp it may push it farther into the airway.

Step 3. Check for breathing

Place your ear next the person’s mouth and listen for no more than 10 seconds. If you do not hear breathing, or you only hear occasional gasps, begin CPR.

If someone is unconscious but still breathing, do not perform CPR. Instead, if they do not seem to have a spinal injury, place them in the recovery position. Keep monitoring their breathing and perform CPR if they stop breathing.

CPR steps

Use the following steps to perform CPR:

Step 4. Perform 30 chest compressions

Place one of your hands on top of the other and clasp them together. With the heel of the hands and straight elbows, push hard and fast in the center of the chest, slightly below the nipples.

Push at least 2 inches deep. Compress their chest at a rate of least 100 times per minute. Let the chest rise fully between compressions.

Chest compressions in CPR visual guide infographic

Step 5. Perform two rescue breaths

Making sure their mouth is clear, tilt their head back slightly and lift their chin. Pinch their nose shut, place your mouth fully over theirs, and blow to make their chest rise.

If their chest does not rise with the first breath, retilt their head. If their chest still does not rise with a second breath, the person might be choking.

CPR rescue breaths visual guide illustration

Step 6. Repeat

Repeat the cycle of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until the person starts breathing or help arrives. If an AED arrives, carry on performing CPR until the machine is set up and ready to use.

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