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Preparing for Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Schools: The Essential Role of AEDs

​It strikes without warning and is the No. 1 cause of death in young athletes.

This startling fact about sudden cardiac arrest has prompted 37 states to pass a law requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training for high school graduation. Only 21 states require automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to be in public schools.

Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. It can cause death within minutes. It usually strikes young athletes during competition or practice.

An AED can check a person's heart rhythm and send a shock that will return the heart rhythm to normal.

​"You need to be prepared to save a life, and these devices without a doubt can save a life," said Alex B. Diamond, D.O., FAAP, an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) pediatric sports medicine expert.

When the heart stops beating, acting quickly can mean the difference between life or death. For every minute that passes, the chance of survival goes down by 10%. The AED should be located near the gym or athletic field. It should take no more than 3 minutes to get the AED and return to the victim, Dr. Diamond said.

​"It will not shock someone who does not need it, so you do not have to worry about hurting someone by discharging a shock when they don't actually need it," he said. "As soon as you open the box, a voice will automatically start talking to you and tell you exactly what to do."

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Symptoms:

  • Chest pain

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness when exercising

  • Shortness of breath that is not caused by exercise or is more than peers

  • Feeling like your heart is skipping a beat

  • Passing out

The AAP recommends that young athletes have a sports physical every year.

Athletes who are concerned about their heart health should visit their pediatrician or pediatric cardiologist.

Additional Information & Resources:

​​Article image © Jones & Bartlett Learning

Last Updated
Adapted from AAP News (Copyright © 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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