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How to Use an AED

How to Use an AED How to Use an AED

If an adult or a child is in cardiac arrest (not responsive, not breathing and no pulse), you should begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions, and yell for someone to call 911 and get an AED. 

Cardiac arrest can be fatal if not treated within minutes. Survival outside a hospital depends on prompt bystander emergency response.

What is an AED? 

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is an electronic device that can analyze a heart rhythm to determine if a shock is needed for someone in cardiac arrest. While most cardiac arrests occur in adults, sudden cardiac arrest can occur in a child or an adolescent.

How to use an AED in an emergency: 

  • When then AED is available, continue chest compressions and rescue breathing while someone else turns on the AED and attaches the pads. 

  • If the AED says “shock advised," press the charge button, stand clear of the patient, and press the shock button when it lights up. The AED will check the child’s heart rhythm and decide whether or not to deliver a shock. Be sure that no one is touching the child when a shock is delivered.  

  • Then resume CPR. It is very important to minimize interruptions of rescue breathing and chest compressions. In addition, when doing chest compressions, lift completely off the chest between compressions to allow for chest recoil.

Adult and Pediatric Pads for AEDs:

While all AEDS are made for adults, there are pediatric pads that adjust the energy level used. These pads are for younger children (less than 8 years). 

  • You can use adult pads for children 8 years and older. 

  • You can use adult pads for a child less than 8 years, but you may have to apply them differently than shown on the pads: apply one on the front of the chest, the other on the back, so they do not touch. See article image. Once the pads are attached, follow the instructions given by the AED.

Take a CPR Class and Learn How to Use an AED! 

To learn more about how to use an AED, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends taking a community or hospital class in CPR for parents and caregivers. These classes will give you a chance to practice CPR and use an AED.

​The AAP also supports age-appropriate life-support training for students, including CPR for older children and all staff, in all schools starting with the primary grades. The AAP also encourages having AEDs near school athletic facilities and training so school personnel and older children know how to use them. 

Additional Information:

Last Updated
Adapted from First Aid for Families (PedFACTS) (Copyright © 2012 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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