Dealing with cardiac arrest is not a simple thing. It is a life and death situation (quite literally) and it is quite difficult to deal with for a number of reasons. First, it requires you to respond right away. Second, it takes a special kind of knowledge in order to successfully perform CPR. Third, you need to get 911, find the nearest AED (automated external defibrillator), and more. In other words, it requires courage, operational abilities, knowledge, and speed. Seeing as how another human being’s life is on the line, the stakes are as high as it gets. Here are 5 essential first aid tips for dealing with a cardiac arrest that you should know about.

1. Call for help right away

No matter how good your first aid skills are, a person in a cardiac arrest needs help from a physician. So, your first course of action should be to call 911 right away.

Keep in mind that even though you want to start with CPR right away, you can dial and put your phone on speaker after laying it on the ground next to the cardiac arrest victim. Ideally, if you’re not alone, you would start with CPR right away and have someone else call 911.

While time is of the essence, it takes seconds to call 911, which is too short for any permanent damage to take place. Waiting for too long to call professionals could have far worse consequences.

2. No one else will step up

Sure, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. The person standing next to you could potentially be an M.D., however, chances are that this won’t be the case. There’s this thing called the psychology of crows, which implies that when there are other people around, everyone expects someone else to step up and take responsibility.

The reason why people are so reluctant to help is simple – they’re afraid that they’ll mess something up. This is absurd for one reason – doing nothing is far worse than doing something wrong. Second, they’re afraid that there’s someone else in the crowd who is more competent than them but who will let them take their shot (a sort of a missed opportunity fear). This is also not very likely.

You shouldn’t leave anything up to chance. By taking an online advanced cardiac life support course, you’ll know exactly what to do. You will gain both knowledge and confidence to act in these situations. This will also help you solve the question of whether you should be the one to step up – of course you should; after all, you’re the one with the certificate.

3. Check for responsiveness

The next thing you need to do is check for responsiveness. If you’re there at the moment when cardiac arrest occurs, chances are that the victim will complain about chest pain or chest discomfort. Unfortunately, the majority of cardiac arrest victims won’t be in a condition to give out a verbal cue.

This is why you should also watch for unexplained wheezing and shortness of breath just before they faint and fall. Remember that a cardiac arrest most often results in a loss of consciousness. Moreover, it is not uncommon that they demonstrate abnormal breathing or stop breathing altogether.

Simply put, if they grab their chest and fall unconscious, the safest course of action is to assume that they’ve suffered a cardiac arrest. Acting in this way could save their life.

4. Time is of the essence

You have a limited time to act. The longer their brain is deprived of oxygen, the worse it will get. After 30-180 seconds of oxygen deprivation, they’ll lose consciousness. After a minute, their brain will slowly start dying. Ideally, you want to start providing CPR before that time.

After three minutes, neurons in one’s brain will suffer more extensive damage. Past this mark, long-term brain damage is far more likely. After five minutes, death will become imminent. If the victim of a cardiac arrest makes it to 10 minutes, they will likely end up in a coma with no hope of waking up.

Once 15 minutes have passed, survival (in any form) becomes nearly impossible. The reason why we use the word nearly is mostly that there are some people whose body is a natural phenomenon. Just because a person once managed to withstand 24 minutes of oxygen deprivation without permanent brain damage doesn’t mean that this is likely to happen ever again.

5. You are just buying time

The whole point of first aid is to buy time until the professionals arrive. The whole point of CPR is to try to stabilize the heart rate until someone appears with the AED. In other words, these are temporary, improvised solutions that are designed to buy the victim enough time to receive specialized medical care.

The AED is fairly simple to use and it’s quite safe. It is designed so that it doesn’t do harm and it’s safe to use in almost any weather. Yes, it’s safe even in the rain. It is also worth mentioning that an AED practically tells you all you need to do, on its own. It may even instruct the user to continue with the CPR.

There are laws according to which public areas like gyms, schools, and community centers need to have their AEDs. If you can’t find one, it’s important that you find someone who knows where they are. Once again, you can’t leave the person suffering from cardiac arrest to wait until you get the AED. This will have to be done by someone else.


Finally, dealing with cardiac arrest is a situation that a lot of people never face but it’s always better to be prepared. First of all, the situation is not that uncommon or unlikely to happen. It could occur in your presence and you might find yourself in a situation where you need to deal with the problem at hand. Ideally, you would undergo some basic training and obtain certification. In the best-case scenario, you’ll never actually get to use it. 

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