UPDATE: Resuscitation Council UK Statement on COVID-19 in relation to CPR and resuscitation in first aid

When CPR is performed there is some risk of cross infection, particularly when giving rescue breaths (mouth to mouth resuscitation). Normally, the risk of cross infection during CPR is very small compared to the consequences of not giving CPR, however the Resuscitation Council UK are aware of the heightened awareness of the possibility that the casualty may have COVID-19, therefore the Resuscitation Council UK now offers the following advice when performing first aid: 

  • LOOK for the absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing. Do not listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the casualties mouth. If you are unsure if the casualty is breathing (normally) then start chest compressions. 
  • If COVID-19 is suspected, tell the emergency call handler that this is suspected when calling 999 for an ambulance. 
  • If there is a perceived risk of infection, first aiders should place a cloth/towel over the casualties mouth and nose and attempt compression-only (hands-only) CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance (or advanced care team) arrives.
  • Early use of a defibrillator significantly increases the casualties chances of survival and does not increase risk of infection. 
  • If the first aider has access to any form of personal protective equipment (PPE) this should be worn before giving first aid.
  • After performing compression-only (hands-only) CPR, all first aiders should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand gel as an alternative. The first aider should also seek advice from the NHS 111 coronavirus advice service or medical adviser after performing first aid. 

Advice for performing Paediatric First Aid: 

As a paediatric cardiac arrest is unlikely to have been caused by a cardiac problem and is more likely to be a respiratory one, it is essential that the first aider still performs rescue breaths (mouth to mouth resuscitation) on a child/infant, as the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus is small compared to the risk of taking no action, and this will result in certain cardiac arrest and the death of the child.  

Read the full Resuscitation Council UK statement and advice here