When Should You Not Perform CPR

You’ve probably repeatedly heard how CPR can be life-saving during emergencies. Generally, it’s the go-to response when someone’s heart stops beating or they’re not breathing.

But what’s less commonly discussed is when to refrain from jumping in with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Yes, believe it or not, there are moments when performing CPR isn’t the right move.

We will shed light on those specific scenarios because knowing when not to perform CPR is just as important as knowing how and when to do it. We’ll walk you through these less-talked-about situations to ensure that your efforts to help don’t inadvertently become harmful.

Let’s clarify when should you not perform CPR and ensure your intervention is as safe and effective as possible.

When Can CPR Help

When you think about life-saving techniques, CPR always comes to mind. This emergency procedure combines chest compressions and rescue breaths that help keep blood and oxygen circulating through the body when a person’s heart and breathing have stopped.

Now, how effective is CPR? Well, statistics show that if performed immediately, CPR can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival after cardiac arrest. That’s no small feat, considering that the chances of survival decrease by 7-10% for every minute that goes by without intervention.

When might you need to spring into action and use this lifesaving technique? There are several situations where CPR could mean the difference between life and death, such as:

    • Drowning

    • Severe allergic reactions

    • Heart attacks

    • Sudden cardiac arrest

    • Suffocation

    • Drug overdose

    • Electrocution

When to Avoid Giving CPR

There are precise times when administering CPR could do more harm than good, both to the person in need and to yourself. As a responsible individual, knowing when to pause and evaluate the situation before proceeding can be just as crucial as performing CPR.

It’s Obvious that The Person is Breathing

Before you even consider starting CPR, you need to make sure it’s necessary. Take a moment to assess the person in distress. Look for the obvious signs of life:

    • The rise and fall of their chest

    • The sound of their breathing

    • Feel for breath on your cheek if you’re close enough

If you’re unsure, try the “tap and shout” method: tap the person gently, loudly asking if they’re okay. CPR isn’t the right move if they respond or you observe any of these signs of breathing.

Performing chest compressions on someone who’s breathing can lead to unnecessary complications like broken ribs or damaged lungs. What’s more, it can interfere with their natural breathing pattern and circulation, which is exactly what you don’t want.

Unsafe Environment

Rushing to give aid without assessing your surroundings puts both you and the person who needs CPR at risk. For instance, if there’s a fire blazing in the vicinity, your first action should be to evacuate yourself and the victim, if possible, rather than starting CPR when you’re near flames and smoke.

Similarly, if you smell toxic gas or see spilt chemicals, these are signs of a hazardous environment for both of you. In such cases, it’s better to wait for professionals with the right equipment to handle the situation.

If the person you’re trying to help has collapsed in a pool of water, it’s necessary to move them to a dry area to prevent the risk of electrocution. This is especially important if there are open electrical wires or other sources of electricity nearby.

It’s also wise to be wary in situations with an imminent threat, like a potentially violent scene or an unstable structure that could collapse at any moment. In all these scenarios, your role is to ensure that help is called immediately.

Victim Is Showing No Signs Of Life

If much time has passed since the person became unresponsive, starting CPR might be a futile effort. If rigor mortis – the stiffening of a body after death – has set in, or if there are other unmistakable signs of death, such as decomposition, it’s clear that you should not attempt doing CPR.

These are signs that the window of opportunity where CPR could have made a difference has closed, and the person cannot be resuscitated. On top of that, attempting CPR in these circumstances could be traumatic for both you and onlookers and could potentially expose you to health risks if the cause of death is infectious or hazardous.

EMS Has Arrived

Once emergency medical services show up, it’s time for you to step back. You’ve done your part, and now trained professionals are here to take over. They have advanced equipment and techniques at their disposal, and your efforts could unintentionally get in the way of their protocols.

You might not realize it, but continuing CPR after EMS arrives can interfere with their assessment and the care they need to provide. They might need to use a defibrillator, administer medications, or perform other lifesaving interventions that require your hands to be off the patient. Your role at this point is to provide them with any information you have about what happened and to support the situation by keeping the area clear and calm.

What to Do if You Can’t Perform CPR

If you ever find yourself in a medical emergency where it’s not advisable or possible to give CPR, the first thing to do is call your local emergency number. Even if you can’t give CPR, you can still help save a life. Relay as much information as possible to the operator, including the condition of the person in need.

While help is coming, look around for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). These devices often come with instructions and can guide you through the process. Applying an AED can increase the survival rate by 40%, so don’t hesitate to use one if the situation calls for it.

If the person is responsive, talk to them and reassure them that help is on the way, and stay by their side. If there are specific instructions from the emergency operator, such as positioning the person safely or checking for breathing, follow those directives carefully. Your calm presence can make a significant difference while waiting for professional medical help to arrive.

How to Recognize if CPR is Necessary

If you ever find yourself in a situation where it looks like someone needs resuscitation, your first instinct may be to jump right in and start administering CPR. While swift action does increase the chances of survival, it’s not always the best move. Depending on the circumstances, you might have to assess the situation in detail:

    • Check for responsiveness – Gently shake the person and ask loudly, “Are you okay?” If there’s no answer, it’s time to act.

    • Look for signs of normal breathing – Are they gasping for air, or is their chest not moving? These could be indicators that the person isn’t getting the oxygen they need.

    • Check for a pulse – Feel for it on the side of the neck, on the carotid artery, using your index and middle fingers. If you can’t find a pulse within 10 seconds, you’ll probably need to do CPR.

Incorrectly assuming someone is fine can lead to devastating consequences. Recognizing the signs when someone needs CPR is easier with proper training. Attending a CPR certification course will teach you how to properly assess these signs and equip you with the skills to provide life-saving chest compressions and rescue breaths.

Final Thoughts: When Should You Not Perform CPR

CPR can be a life-saving procedure, yet knowing when to pause and assess the situation is equally important. Remember, if the person is conscious, breathing normally, or has a pulse, you should not perform CPR. These signs indicate that their heart and lungs are still functioning.

Also, be cautious in unsafe environments – your safety comes first. In scenarios such as a hazardous scene or when you’re unsure of the person’s medical condition, it’s best to wait for professional help.
Understanding when you should not perform CPR is as important as knowing when and how to do it. If you haven’t already, consider signing up for a CPR class. With proper training, you can be ready to act confidently and effectively, ensuring you provide help when it’s needed and withhold it when it could do more harm than good.