Bystander CPR Instructions: When Should You Administer CPR?

What happens if you are walking down the road and spot someone bending or lying on the grass. How do you determine if the person needs CPR or not?

Well, here’s one of the Bystander CPR Instructions to remember; knowing how to execute it is one thing; doing it is another.

Often, people fear using their CPR skills on individuals who may not need it.

Under many circumstances, the person who comes to the rescue of the victim often has no clue whether the victim is suffering from cardiac arrest as per the signs and symptoms that they have acquired in training.

Heart Attacks and Cardiac Arrests

These are two terms people confuse and use interchangeably. However, they are not the same and have different causes.

Cardiac arrests occur when the heart has irregular electrical impulses, thus causing irregular beat. Meanwhile, a heart attack is caused by the blood failing to flow in the heart due to blockage.

In the case of a cardiac arrest patient, CPR should be executed, and an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) may prove useful.

And though a heart attack can trigger a cardiac arrest, most cases of heart attacks do not result in cardiac arrest.

If a person is suffering from a heart attack, a CPR shouldn’t be administered unless the patient is going into cardiac arrest.

It is better to perform CPR on a victim who does not need it than to fail to perform CPR on a person who might need it. Therefore it is recommended that if you are in doubt, conduct a CPR.

Criminals May Fake Emergencies to Lure Bystanders

Beware of criminals who want to exploit your human instinct to steal and cause chaos. They use different methods to lure innocent bystanders to their traps more so ladies.

Report any incidence you deem suspicious to the authorities. Also, alert emergency medical personnel if it seems like a medical emergency.

CPR and Electrocution

If you suspect that an individual needs CPR, take a glance at your surroundings, it is very likely that the victim has been electrocuted and contact with them may cause injury to you as well.

In the case of electrocution, be careful taking care of the situation or risk endangering your life. Call for professional help if you notice any of these symptoms.

  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Numbness
  • Respiratory failure
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Unconsciousness

While waiting for the medical personnel, perform the following steps:

Observe your surroundings first, and do not touch the victim. He/she may be in contact with the electrical source, which might pose a danger for you if you touch them.

Attempt to turn off the source of current or move the source away from the scene using a non-conductor such as plastic, wood, or cardboard.

Check for indicators that your victim’s blood is circulating by checking for breathing, movement, or coughing. If these indicators are absent, start CPR immediately.

Lay the victim on the ground with the position of his head a bit lower than the lower body and with legs on an elevated position.

Bystander CPR Facts: Assessing Whether a Patient Requires CPR

Responsive checks

The most critical step in assessing whether an individual needs CPR is to perform a responsive check by looking for responsiveness and breathing in the victim.

This check is easy to perform; tap the victim on the shoulders firmly while speaking to them loudly. If the patient is conscious, they will attempt to perform an action; such as moving, blinking, or changing their facial expressions.

 An alternative if you do not wish to come close to the victim, simply tap their feet or tickle their feet’s soles. If this fails to create an indication that the victim is responsive, call 911!

Check for Normal Breathing

After notifying 911, confirm if the victim is breathing normally. Normal breathing as per the American Heart Association is defined by a regular outward and inward movement of the chest cavity.

This test should be conducted for at least five seconds and not exceeding ten seconds. If there is no evidence for normal breathing, commence on CPR immediately.

Lack of pulse

Check for the victim’s pulse. No pulse is a sign of heart failure.


Fluids such as saliva, blood, or vomit may also be observed flowing out of the victim’s mouth.

The victim may also suffer from bladder control or loss of bladder, which could offset bystanders leading to delayed CPR.

Agonal breathing

Another factor to look for is agonal breathing. These are more or less irregular breathing patterns, and reflex of the brain stem usually indicated by labored breathing, gasping for air followed by strange sounds and myoclonus.

Myoclonus is the twitching of muscle or muscles involuntarily for a short time.

Bystanders commonly mistake myoclonus for seizures, especially if the victim is experiencing chronic convulsions and therefore delay performing a CPR to the victim.

Skin color change

Skin color change is another sign of danger. If the skin becomes pale, bluish, or ashen, it may indicate that the victim needs CPR.

Sometimes the change of color might be subtle while other times, it may be easy to spot. While problems in respiration are the first sign of cardiac arrest, one can use the change of skin color as a secondary confirmation.

The changes occur in central parts such as the lips, tongue, or the core or peripheral regions such as fingers.

Overdosing drugs, Drowning, and Exposure to smoke/inhalants

Check for a pulse and whether he/she is breathing. This type of injuries might require repeated execution of chest compression (with hands) and rescue (mouth to mouth) breathing.


If an electrical accident happens close to you, and an individual is hurt, avoid coming into contact with the victim.

Attempt to switch off the power source of and then detach the fellow from electrical contact using a broomstick, wooden stick or any non- conductor.

Bystander CPR Guidelines: When to stop performing CPR

Deciding when to stop CPR is crucial because too much of it is dangerous. It is a factor any rescuer should consider while performing the procedure.

If you are performing CPR and you see evidence of life, stop the procedure immediately.

Also, when the medical personnel gets to the scene, leave the victim to the professionals. If the environment is unsafe, you should also seek safety first


As previously said, it is better to perform CPR on an individual who does not need it rather than not administering it to one who does need it.

It is therefore vital that in any indication of lack of breathing and unresponsiveness, carry out CPR right away followed by rescue mouth operations.

It is a great feeling when you save a life. Attend training and get certified on this impressive skill of saving lives.