When someone experiences cardiac arrest the most important treatment is immediate CPR. Yet many bystanders are hesitant to help due to a number of persistent myths and misconceptions. Let's take a look at 10 of the most common CPR myths and the truth behind each.
CPR Myth #1: I have to put my mouth on a stranger to perform CPR.
While it's true that providing breaths is an important part of CPR, research has shown that most people will not help if they think they have to put their lips on a stranger. The good news is that during the first few minutes of cardiac arrest there's some oxygen left in the blood so performing hands-only CPR can buy the victim time until professional medical help arrives. So don't let a fear of planting a wet one on a stranger keep you from helping when seconds truly count. Just push hard and fast in the center of the chest and don't stop until professional help arrives. Doing chest compressions without breathing is way better than doing nothing at all!
CPR Myth #2: CPR Can Wait Until the Ambulance Arrives.
Did you know that the average response time for an ambulance in the United States is between 8 and 10 minutes? Yet for every single minute that passes without administering CPR a person's chance of survival drops by 10%. Without immediate CPR provided by YOU, the victim's chance of survival drops to virtually nothing! If someone isn't responding and isn't breathing then start CPR immediately and call 911 (put them on speaker phone so you can keep doing CPR).
CPR Myth #3: I'll break someone's ribs with CPR.
As long as you're pressing in the center of the chest (the middle of the breast bone or sternum) then you're not likely to break any ribs. True, you're likely to feel some popping of cartilage when you first start (like when you crack your knuckles) but that doesn't mean you've broken any ribs. Also, keep in mind that if you're doing CPR it's because the victim is technically dead and without immediate CPR they're almost certain to stay dead. You have our permission: start CPR if the person is in need and don't worry about those ribs. After all, the remote possibility of a broken rib is a lot better than dying.
CPR Myth #4: You Can Hurt Someone with CPR
Sure, if you perform CPR on a person who is responding or breathing normally they won't very much appreciate you pressing on their chest. But if they really need CPR because they aren't responding and aren't breathing then CPR can only help them. Don't worry about breaking ribs (like we discussed above) or 'doing it wrong.' The truth is, you're their only hope for surviving a sudden cardiac arrest and hesitating will only seal their dying fate.
CPR Myth #5: I Can Learn CPR Online
OK, so this one is mostly false. You can take part of a CPR course online. A legitimate online CPR class is only a hybrid that combines an online learning portion with a real hands-on session with a certified instructor. Don't take a CPR class that offers 100% online training; it's a scam! The hands-on component is crucial to proper CPR training. If you don't need to put your hands on a manikin then you're just wasting your money.
CPR Myth #6: I already know CPR; I took a class years ago.
CPR is a skill just like any other that requires practice. You might have taken a class 5 years ago but chances are you don't remember much from it. On top of that, CPR is a science and there's been a lot of amazing research recently that has led to changes in how to best perform CPR in order to maximize survival. The American Heart Association recommends that you take a CPR class at least once every 2 years. If you have the opportunity, taking a class every year is even better. Don't wait until someone's life is in your hands to question your training.
CPR Myth #7: 911 Knows Where I Am
When you call 911 the dispatcher automatically receives your exact location, right? Wrong! If you dial 911 from a mobile phone your location (if transmitted at all) is usually only accurate within about 1 city block. If that were the only information first responders had to find you it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Things are better if you're calling from a landline phone as the dispatcher will receive an exact address. Keep in mind, however, that many landline phones today are actually VOIP phones that require someone to register an address. In some cases the owner of the phone fails to enter their address or perhaps they moved and didn't update the address (you might be dialing 911 in a different state if that's the case!). You need to know your exact address before calling 911 for help to arrive quickly! This includes telling the 911 operator what floor and room within a building they can find you.
CPR Myth #8: I Can Get Sued for Performing CPR
While it's true that almost anyone can file a lawsuit for just about any reason, every state has a Good Samaritan Law that would cause such a lawsuit to be thrown out by the judge so long as you provided care that a reasonable bystander could perform. Now we're not lawyers so definitely check on your own state's laws, but most agree that as long as you stick to basic CPR when a person needs it then you shouldn't worry about being sued. Also, you don't need to be formally certified in CPR to be protected so feel free to help even if that CPR card is expired. Hands-only CPR is perfect for these situations!
CPR Myth #9: Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attacks are the same thing.
You hear it all the time, "he died from a heart attack." But did he? This common myth is the result of a misunderstanding of the terms. So what is the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arre