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Do I still need to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with CPR?

When you think of helping someone who has nearly drowned, had a heart attack or gone unconscious, do you automatically think of using “mouth to mouth” resuscitation? For a lot of people, especially older people, this is exactly what springs to mind.

Even the term “mouth to mouth” has become deeply embedded in our culture though movies, TV and the media. This is because it was originally made the standard in first aid training way back in the 1960s. At the time it was called “Airways, Breathing, Circulation” or the “ABC” method.

Now at the time it was introduced, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation combined with chest compressions/CPR was a great improvement on the previous methods of resuscitation which had been used up to then, such as a bellows or moving a person’s arms up and down.

But since the 1960s there has been a lot of research in the US into mouth-to-mouth resuscitation/CPR. By analysing thousands of patients, they have discovered that it can, in many cases, be better just to perform the chest compressions component of CPR than it is to add in what we now call “rescue breaths” (the new term for mouth-to-mouth).

There are many cases where it is still recommended to combine the two but it’s too complicated to get into which situations this applies to here.

So please note that in Australia there has been no change to the first aid training methods. We still do include learning how to perform rescue breaths along with chest compressions when performing CPR. Unfortunately, a lot of stories in the media have carried the news from the US and has made the situation very confused.

In this post Covid world the situation has become more complicated because people naturally are very loathe to put their mouths on the mouths of complete strangers and unfortunately that can make them wary of giving assistance to someone when it’s needed most.

So just to reassure you, the ideal situation is to combine giving rescue breaths with chest compressions when performing CPR, but IF you are uncomfortable with the idea of putting your mouth on the mouth of a complete strange, you can choose to do CPR without rescue breaths. If you have CPR breathing masks that allow you perform rescue breaths without mouth-to-mouth contact then please use them.

Because it is always best to do something than nothing at all. And if the idea of mouth to mouth stops you giving CPR then you don’t have to include it. Pumping a person’s chest up and down with your hands is what keeps oxygenated blood pumping through the body and this helps to keep vital organs alive.

Remember that if you do perform CPR on someone you can increase their chance of survival by up to 300%, so it’s vital that you are not put off by the thought of “having” to give the person “mouth to mouth”.

Of course, if you don’t know how to do CPR properly you should book in a course with Melbourne’s leading first aid trainers at

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