Get to know an AED

Automated external defibrillators help a person who is in cardiac arrest. They can deliver an electric shock to help get the heart beating normally again.


You may have seen AEDs at places like stores, malls, hotels or gyms. Many public places have them and they are usually mounted on a wall.


What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest and a heart attack are not the same thing.


In a heart attack, a blockage stops blood flow to the heart. But with cardiac arrest, the heart’s electrical rhythm isn’t working properly. The heart stops pumping, or is “arrested.” A heart attack can cause cardiac arrest.


Why should I learn to use an AED?

Sudden cardiac arrest is a major cause of death. An AED is the only way to restore a person’s heart rhythm during cardiac arrest. Knowing how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is also helpful.


You still need to call 911 if someone is in cardiac arrest. But it takes a few minutes for an ambulance to arrive. In those minutes, an AED could be life-saving.


When to use one

If a person has cardiac arrest, they will be completely unresponsive. If the person cannot talk or wake up, check to see if they are breathing. If they aren’t breathing and don’t have a pulse, start CPR and ask someone else to get the AED, if possible.


What to do

Even if you’re not trained, you can use an AED on someone in cardiac arrest. The machine helps guide you along. Here’s what to do:

•  Call 911 or have someone else call.

•  If possible, have someone do chest compressions or CPR while someone else gets the AED ready.

•  Turn on the AED.

•  Remove clothes from the person’s chest. Dry their skin with a cloth if needed.

•  Put the pads on the chest as pictured on the pads.

•  Do not place AED pads on top of a pace maker.

•  First, the AED will measure the person’s heart rhythm. Don’t touch the person while this happens.

•  If the person needs a shock, the AED will tell you.

•  The AED will tell you when it gives a shock and what to do next. Stand back while it gives a shock through the pads.


Together, CPR and an AED can save lives.


Sources: American Heart Association, American Red Cross

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