A cardiac arrest is traumatic to witness, it takes real bravery to intervene and help, and prompt emergency assistance to the victim can give them the greatest chance of survival.
An AED, or Automated External Defibrillator, can be one of the most effective tools when coming to the aid of a person experiencing cardiac arrest. They are designed to be easy to use even by people with no medical training and what’s more, they can be remarkably effective.
A person shocked with an AED within the first 2 minutes of cardiac arrest has a survival rate of around 50% - higher than just CPR and way, way higher than doing nothing.
Whilst serious hearts defects leading to cardiac arrests are rare in children and infants they can occur. Given their effectiveness, many people naturally wonder, can you use an AED on an infant?
The Short Answer
The short answer is yes, you can use an AED on an infant.
As with many things in life, this is sadly not a definitive answer. There are in fact several qualifying conditions that accompany that statement, and an AED may well not be suitable for use on all infants and in all circumstances.
The Longer Answer
The longer answer is that many earlier models of AEDs were simply not designed for use on infants. Whilst this situation is changing as AED manufactures roll out models that are suitable for younger patients, sadly you cannot assume that they are all suitable for children.
Generally speaking, if the child or infant is over 8 years old and weighs more than 25 kg (55 lb), any AED will be suitable for them. If they are younger or smaller however, you should carefully read the instructions on the model of AED before you use it.
Models suitable for infants will come with smaller electrode pads that are suitable for an infant's body size. Crucially however, they will have a setting for infants that will lower the voltage that is delivered in each charge. This is crucial for the safe use of the device on an infant.
For children between the ages of 1 and 8, the general advice is that it is worth using an AED, even if it does not come with a mode and electrodes suited for an infant. It'slikely that not using it would be more damaging than using it.
You must never use adult-strength charges on an infant under 1 years old, however. For an infant of this young age, an AED can do serious harm if the voltage cannot be set for a child.
If you have an infant under 1 who is experiencing cardiac arrest then you are advised to perform CPR until the ambulance arrives. The defibrillator sets that EMTs can bring have adjustable voltages so that they can set the appropriate charge for the age and size of the patient.
Signs of Cardiac Arrest in Infants
The signs of cardiac arrest in infants are exactly the same as in adults. They will:
- Collapse suddenly
- Become instantly unconscious
- Become unresponsiveness
- May stop breathing or have trouble breathing
In the event of any of these symptoms, call the emergency services immediately. Begin CPR straight away and look for a suitable AED.
If you notice any of these symptoms it is well advised that you arrange to bring your child or infant to a doctor for a check-up as soon as possible. Many underlying causes of sudden cardiac arrest can be minimized and even prevented completely with prompt and effective treatment.
Whilst an AED will bring the best chance of survival to an infant suffering cardiac arrest, it is even better to spot the early warning signs and take the appropriate action.
The best thing that you can do, if possible, is to inspect the AED before you have to use it. Typically there are special defibrillator pads included for use on infants. Of course, this may not be possible in the case of AEDs held in public spaces. However if you have one in your workplace or your home then check it is suitable for use on infants.
It goes without saying that your child’s school or daycare should have an AED and it should of course be suitable for use on infants. However, it is still worth checking!
Finally, when you do encounter an AED that is not suitable for use on infants, contact the owner and ask for it to be replaced with an infant suitable model. That is the only way that we can guarantee all of these lifesaving devices are suitable for children too – by demanding that they are.