Do you know how to use a defibrillator?

Saving someone’s life might be the last thing on your mind when you step out of your front door to go shopping, head to work, pick up the kids or anything else. However, it you’re in the right place at the right time, this might be exactly what you end up doing. Cardiac arrest can strike unexpectedly and if you see someone who you think has suffered one of these medical emergencies, your actions could help to spare their lives.

If there is one available, you should use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Firms like Steroplast sell state-of-the-art AEDs and these devices are now widely available in public places such as shopping centres, schools and sports centres. Don’t panic if you’re not sure how to use this equipment. Getting to grips with defibrillators is easier than you might think. The AEDs themselves provide all the information you will need, and reading this brief guide will help ensure that you know what to expect.

Check the patient

If you see someone suddenly collapse or you find them when they’re already unconscious, quickly perform some checks. To make sure that the person isn’t just asleep, shout and shake them. If it’s a young child, pinch them rather than shake to avoid injuring them. Check their breathing and pulse too. If these signs are irregular or absent, get ready to use the AED. You should also call the emergency services. If other people are around, get someone else to do this while you’re preparing to use the defibrillator. This will save valuable time.

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Completely safe

One thing that puts people off using AEDs is the thought that they’ll give a shock to a patient who doesn’t need one and make them worse. In fact, you shouldn’t worry about this. AEDs are now designed to be completely safe and you don’t have to have had medical training to use them. They analyse patients and will only administer shocks to people who really need them.

Using the AED

Before using the device, check for puddles of water near to the patient. If you seen any, move the patient to a dry area. You can then turn the AED on. Once activated, the machine will provide you with instructions. Usually, they feature voice commands and provide on-screen prompts.

In the box containing the AED, you’ll find two sticky pads. These pads should be placed on the patient’s bear chest. One should be positioned above the patient’s right nipple and the other should go just below the left nipple and to the left of the ribcage.

Don’t worry about forgetting this in the heat of the moment though. Clear instructions will be provided. Many pads now feature diagrams showing exactly where they should be placed. When you apply them, make sure the pads have a good connection with the skin.

As soon as the pads are in place, the AED will analyse the patient and state whether a shock is needed. If it is, make sure that everyone else is standing well back from the patient. This is really important. If anyone is touching the person, they will be shocked too. Once you’re confident that everyone is clear of the patient, you can press the ‘shock’ button.

The device will then tell you when it’s safe to touch the patient again. At this stage, you can start or resume CPR until paramedics arrive.

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Don’t hesitate

The important thing when you see a cardiac arrest patient is not to hesitate. Don’t assume that someone else will take control of the situation. By calling an ambulance straight away and using an AED, you might be able to save the person’s life.

If you’d like to get more information on these devices, you can watch AED instruction videos online. There’s also the option of signing up to a first aid course.

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