We all know that defibrillators are designed to be simple to use and are extremely effective in saving lives. (They are brilliant devices!)
Please be aware that even without formal AED training or certification, YOU can use a public access defibrillator to help someone who is unconscious and not breathing normally (including someone who is not breathing at all). As long as you have acted in good faith, the Good Samaritan’s Act in Ontario protects you no matter what the outcome.
Even though defibrillators are very simple to use (turn on, follow prompts and press shock button if advised), without formal training you may not know some less obvious things to take into consideration. Here’s a list of 10 important AED considerations:
1. Hairy chest
The defibrillator pads need to make contact with bare skin, so if you are dealing with a victim who has a hairy chest… you guessed it, shave him! Most AED kits will come with a razor and it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just to be enough of a smooth patch for the AED pad to stick. If there’s not a razor in the kit, my advice is to use the super-sticky back-up defibrillator pads to give him a quick wax.
The best way to save baby is to save Mom. Use the defibrillator in the exact same way that you would for a victim who isn’t pregnant.
3. Children (8 years of age or under 55lbs)
Most defibrillators come with child pads or a “child key” that lowers the voltage for a child victim. Make sure these smaller pads are hooked up to the unit. Additionally, because a child’s torso is much smaller than an adult’s torso, pads should be placed in the centre of the child’s chest as well as on the centre of the upper back, directly in line with one another. If there are no child pads with the AED, use adult pads and place front and back like you would if you had child pads available.
4. Infants (newborn – 1 year old)
AEDs should not be used for infants. It has not yet been proven whether or not they are safe for infants, however it is known that automated defibrillators are much less effective than manual defibrillators (like you would find in a hospital) in helping infants. Fast response in the form of calling 911 and CPR is the best response for an infant victim who has stopped breathing.
This includes any jewellery, torso piercings (navel and nipple) and underwire bras. If the victim is wearing a necklace and there is no time to take it off, simply ensure the jewellery is at least 1 inch from the pads. Use this same rule of thumb for torso piercings, as there will likely be no time to remove these either. If a woman is wearing an underwire bra, simply cut through the centre with strong scissors or wire cutters (usually provided in the AED kit) and ensure the metal is no longer touching the victim’s skin. Lastly, you and the victim should not be located on top of a metal surface of any kind.
6. Water & Sweat
Water and electricity are not friends. If the victim is in an aquatic environment or is sweating profusely, dry them off as much as possible, as well as the ground underneath of them. Have the driest rescuer handle the defibrillator. Ensure that the areas on the victim’s chest where the pads will be placed are also dry so that the pads stick well to skin.
7. Nitroglycerin patch
A victim who has a poor blood circulation condition called Angina might be wearing a “nitro” patch to help thin their blood. This patch can be found either on their chest or arm. When paired with electricity, nitro can be dangerous and burn the victim, so carefully remove all patches before attaching the AED. It is important to remove the patch while wearing gloves, as nitro patches can cause blood pressure to drop quickly, which can become dangerous for the rescuer.
8. Implanted pacemakers or defibrillators
If someone who has a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator is unconscious and not breathing, something has clearly malfunctioned with their device. Therefore, proceed as usual, but place the pad at least 1 inch from the site of the pacemaker/defibrillator (it will be a hard lump underneath the skin about the size of half a deck of cards).
9. Oxygen-rich environments
Oxygen and electricity aren’t friends either. If the victim is attached to oxygen or if there is an oxygen tank nearby, simply remove it from the scene and proceed as usual.
10. Cable & AED Movement
Be careful not to adjust the cords or move the device in any way while the AED is assessing the victim and when it is shocking. This can cause inaccurate readings, thereby rendering the device useless.
Last but not least, If the device tells you to perform CPR (because the shock has not been effective in restoring the heart to normal sinus rhythm), do not remove the pads and continue CPR. The AED will tell you to stop every 2 minutes, analyze the heart rhythm and determine the best course of action.
Please contact us for more information to purchase a defibrillator for your organization or to be trained on how to use the device.
Always remember – be calm, be confident & think common sense!
There’s no better time to refresh your lifesaving skills. Visit www.onsitefirstaid.ca/register to see our calendar and contact us directly about a session in-home, in-office or in-studio.