The Resuscitation Council (UK) have issued guidelines for how to give CPR when you suspect the patient having a cardiac arrest may have Coronavirus or COVID-19. Click here to read the published guidelines.
What are the signs that your cardiac arrest patient may have Coronavirus or COVID-19?
It is very difficult to be sure that your patient has COVID-19. Especially since they may not be conscious or breathing. The conscious symptoms of this type of Coronavirus are a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath. These symptoms are also similar to other illnesses like flu or the common cold.
If you’re uncertain whether a potential casualty is suffering from COVID-19, then it is best to err on the side of caution – but still help them if they are critically unwell!
Follow the normal protocol!
If you suspect someone is suffering from a cardiac arrest follow exactly what you’ve been told. Check for Danger, try and get a Response, Shout for help (dial 999 or ask a bystander to do so for you. Making sure they say Cardiac Arrest or not breathing normally). You then want to open their Airway, check for Breathing and if not breathing normally, start CPR. Send someone to get the Defibrillator.
How do I check for breathing if I don’t want to be too close?
Normally you would put your ear and cheek close to the patients mouth to listen for signs of breathing if you suspect a cardiac arrest. DO NOT do this if you suspect they may have COVID-19. Instead use your eyes to see if there are any signs of your patient breathing. Is the patients’ chest rising and falling? If in any doubt the guidelines are to start chest compressions immediately.
How do I do chest compressions?
Place your hands palms down over the centre of the patients’ chest, one above the other. Start pushing as hard and fast as you can. If you know the Bee Gees hit “Staying Alive” use the beat to time your rhythm (100-120bpm). Keep doing this until the ambulance crew arrives and takes over. It can be very tiring, so if you have others around you get them to take turns with you. The current guidelines advise against delivering rescue breaths. Just doing the compressions will help keep them alive and you safe for a period of time.
Can I use a defibrillator?
It is perfectly safe to use a defibrillator on a patient with suspected COVID-19. By using a defibrillator you will significantly increase the patients’ chances of surviving the cardiac arrest. Get your helper to locate and bring the defibrillator and follow the instructions the machine gives to you. Once the ambulance crew arrives they will take over from you – but wait for them to tell you what to do next!
Look after yourself
Once the ambulance crew have taken over you still need to look after yourself. Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible. Call the NHS Coronavirus helpline on 111 to get the latest advice. You have done an amazing thing but don’t take any risks with your own health.