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Compression-Only CPR Okay in Certain Situations

The American Red Cross guidelines on using chest compressions alone to help someone who has collapsed are in line with articles published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that Compression-Only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should be supported in certain situations.

Compression-Only CPR involves the use of chest compressions only, without the addition of rescue breathing. The Red Cross encourages everyone to be trained in full CPR (chest compressions and rescue breathing) along with training on how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

However, in a life-threatening emergency, if you haven’t been trained or can’t recall how to perform full CPR, the Red Cross recommends calling 9-1-1 or the local emergency number, and giving continuous chest compressions until medical help takes over. American Red Cross has partnered with Howcast Media to produce a video on how to perform compression-only CPR.

“We are pleased to see that these articles are consistent with and provide additional support for Red Cross guidelines,” says Dr. David Markenson, chair, American Red Cross Advisory Council on First Aid, Aquatics, Safety and Preparedness. “Since 2005 we have recognized Compression-Only CPR as an alternative lifesaving technique for untrained bystanders who witness the sudden collapse of an adult.“

Full CPR is recommended for infants and children since they experience sudden cardiac arrest primarily due to respiratory problems causing a loss of oxygen. Since a child’s oxygen levels in the blood are low at the time of cardiac arrest, they need rescue breaths to improve oxygen levels and aid in resuscitation.

The NEJM article also agrees with the Red Cross position that further research on Compression-Only CPR is needed. The Red Cross is helping to lead this research through a CPR skill retention study which looks at different educational models and Compression-Only versus full CPR.

In a life-threatening emergency, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Knowing what to do can help save someone’s life. Visit to find your local Red Cross chapter and sign up for First Aid and CPR training today!