The only way to treat someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest is to use Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), which artificially circulates oxygen around non-breathing casualties. It's an essential lifesaving skill that is very easy to learn, yet few members of the public actually know how to do it. This is partly why cardiac arrest survival rates are so low, and further exasperated by the public's strange perception of the CPR process.
One of the main barriers is that there simply aren't enough people trained in Basic Life Support. Or those who are trained don't possess the confidence to help. This may be due to a lapse in refreshing their training, or through their own understandable fears. As with anything you need to have a strength in numbers effect. Every person that is trained in CPR is a potential walking lifesaver. Imagine a whole shopping mall, airport or train station full of these people. It is proven that more lives would be saved through an increase in the availability of trained personnel.
Part of the CPR process requires the first aider to artificially blow air into the casualty's lungs. This requires direct contact with their mouth, which ensures that the air fully reaches down to their lungs. There is a huge overwhelming public perception that making contact in such a way with a stranger could cause a transfer of dangerous diseases.
There is no scientific proof that you can catch diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV through saliva contact. In fact the first aider would need to have an open wound on their own mouth, which would then need to make contact with the casualty's wound in order to transfer the disease over. The vast majority of casualties will have no diseases, yet will not benefit from prompt CPR treatment, owing to these primitive fears.
Another problem is that the public can be afraid of making mistakes when giving CPR. It is worth noting that anyone who has suffered a cardiac arrest is considered clinically dead. Anything that is done to them at this point is going to be a bonus, and can only help the situation.
Unfortunately further doubt is creeping into peoples mind owing to the blame culture that is rapidly manifesting itself through Western society. Libel claims and law suits are filed for the most in audacious events, which can lead to people losing faith in the current health & safety laws. First aiders are protected by a 'Good Samaritan' law which ensures they cannot be prosecuted as a result of their treatment as long as they stick within the guidelines of the training. These laws allow you to make mistakes, and will not hang you out to dry in the event of a death.
The only way forward is to reverse the public perceptions about the whole process. Survival rates have plateaued and in some cases fallen in many western countries, despite improvements in medical science. More people need to be put through basic life support courses, and new ideas need to be generated to repair the public perception of mouth to mouth contact.
Bill Casserley is an experienced first aid trainer, who regularly volunteers at major events. Would you be happy to give CPR? If not then visit the bls training blog @ http://www.train-aid.co.uk for free life saving tips.
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