The Life-Saving Activity That's Worth the Coronavirus Risk

Performing CPR may seem risky during a pandemic, but experts say it's still worth doing.

The thought of performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a loved one or stranger is undeniably stressful under normal circumstances—and with coronavirus still spreading, it's a more frightening prospect than ever. However, in the case of an emergency situation, experts say that it's far more likely that a person suffering cardiac arrest will die than it is that a bystander performing hands-only CPR will contract coronavirus from doing so.

A June 2020 study published in the American Heart Association's Circulation journal reveals that, while chest compressions could potentially spread infected aerosolized respiratory droplets within close proximity of the person performing CPR, the reward still outweighs the risk.

The study's researchers estimate that, taking into account the approximate one percent mortality rate for coronavirus, performing hands-only CPR might result in one death per 10,000 responders to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. Meanwhile, this type of CPR is likely to save over 300 lives out of 10,000 patients experiencing cardiac arrest outside a hospital setting.

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And while wearing a face mask when social distancing isn't possible is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that doesn't mean you should necessarily don full protective gear before performing CPR if you're not wearing it already. The study's authors concluded that taking the time to don personal protective equipment should only be done "when the prevalence of COVID-19 is substantially increased."

man receiving CPR

So, just how effective is performing CPR without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? According to a 2008 review of research published in Circulation, hands-only CPR increased patient survival rates when compared to performing no CPR in six human studies in which the two practices were compared. In fact, in multiple studies cited in the research, hands-only CPR had greater human survival outcomes than chest compressions combined with rescue breaths.

If you are performing any type of CPR, having backup is crucial, as well. The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 prior to starting hands-only CPR, a decision that may improve the affected individual's risk of survival. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Sciences, the rate of positive neurological outcomes for individuals having a cardiac event doubled when telephone CPR help was provided. And if you want to protect yourself from coronavirus, check out The Mind-Blowing Trick Will Make Your Face Mask So Much Safer.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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