CPR in a Child (1 Year and Older): First Aid

What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. CPR is an emergency procedure that involves chest compressions and rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). When given properly, CPR can help deliver oxygen to the heart, brain and other organs until help arrives or until your child recovers. Causes of cardiac arrest in children and teens are usually a result of a major injury or illness and rarely from underlying heart disease.

Other causes may include:

  • drowning
  • suffocation
  • poisoning or intoxication
  • life-threatening (anaphylactic) allergic reactions

CPR courses are often available through local recreation programs, advanced swim programs, and first aid programs. The basic skills are simple and usually take a few hours to learn. 

Giving CPR to your child

Check to see if your child is responsive by tapping them on the shoulder and asking loudly, “Are you OK?” If your child does not answer, call 911 right away. If you are not alone, have someone esle call for you.

Chest compressions

Begin CPR by laying your child down on a firm, flat surface. Place the heel of your hand over the lower third of your child's breastbone and give them 30 quick chest compressions. Be sure to push hard enough so their chest moves approximately 2 inches (5 cm) down. This will get the blood flowing to your child's brain and other vital organs.

Child standing by a pool  

Rescue breaths

Open the airway

After the first 30 chest compressions, place the palm of your hand on your child’s forehead. Place two fingers under the tip of their chin and gently tilt their neck back. This will open your child's airway.

Child standing by a pool  

Begin rescue breathing

Pinch your child's nose and place your mouth over their mouth and give two slow breaths. Make sure you see your child's chest rise with each breath.

Child standing by a pool  


Repeat this cycle of 30 chest compressions and two breaths every two minutes until the ambulance arrives or your child starts breathing again.

Child standing by a pool  

Recovery position

Once your child has recovered and started breathing again on their own, your child may vomit and find it difficult to breathe. Simply put your child in the recovery position, with his face pointing slightly down. Make sure nothing is blocking or covering his mouth and nose. The recovery position will help keep your child’s airway open.

Child standing by a pool  

 Key points

  • Chest compression should be delivered hard and fast.​
  • CPR helps restore breathing and blood flow to the brain and other vital organs.
  • If your child is unconscious and not breathing, call 911 right away.
  • After CPR, put your child the recovery position. This will keep their airway open.

 Elly Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE​