A guide to defibrillators in schools for parents

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) can affect anyone at any point in their life, including children. Regardless of age, lifestyle or gender, they can cause the heart to beat irregularly and result in fatalities if not treated quickly and correctly.


The initiative for Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) to be placed at all public places such as schools has been both strong and ongoing. Every week children die of sudden cardiac arrest, so it’s important that the right medical equipment is close to hand and that we know how to act in such an incident. As the chances of survival rapidly drop if an AED isn’t used, it’s vital to know how to act both quickly and efficiently.


What is SCA?


SCA occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body due to an electrical malfunction. This causes the heart to enter an irregular rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation (VF) or ventricular tachycardia (VT), which results in the victim becoming unconscious. Without the right treatment, they can then die.


Over 140,000 people do die each year due to a SCA. It’s estimated that 70 per cent of these happen outside of a hospital and away from trained medical professionals. Approximately 30 per cent of these people pass away before they even reach a hospital due to not receiving the care they need.


Every minute is crucial for SCA sufferers. It’s important they receive the correct medical treatment as soon as possible, where an AED combined with CPR are used to restore the heart back to its natural rhythm.


What do I do if a SCA happens?


When someone suffers a SCA, follow these steps to ensure they have the best chance of survival:


- Early Access (Call 999)


Target ambulance response times currently stand at eight minutes, so it’s important to look after the victim as the emergency services make their way to you. Any cardiac incident is treated as an emergency and an ambulance will get to you as quickly as they can. Calling 999 will also put you in contact with someone who can advise you as you wait for medical help to arrive.


- Early CPR (Begin resuscitation)


Beginning the first steps of resuscitation is key to the success of defibrillation, and this works alongside the use of an AED to restore the heart to its natural rhythm. CPR is the combination of rhythmic chest compressions and rescue breaths to help restore the heart to its natural state and out of VT or VF.


- Early Defibrillation (The use of an AED)


While CPR is effective, the use of an AED and defibrillation is also necessary. Follow the clear instructions to guide you through the process; most defibrillators will have clear and easy-to-understand visual aids or audio guidance.


- Early Advanced Life Support (Arrival of medical attention)


Once medical attention has arrived, hand over to them to ensure the victim receives the care they need. Paramedics can administer oxygen or cardiac drugs, and take the victim to the hospital.


Children and AEDs


We’re always protective of our children and children in our care, and one of the most common worries with an AED is that you can hurt a child when using one. However, an AED will not deliver a shock unless it detects an irregular rhythm, so a child is not in danger of being accidentally shocked.


Medically speaking, a victim of SCA is considered dead as their heart is no longer pumping blood around their body, where the combination of an AED and CPR is their only chance of survival.


An AED can be used on children and infants as well as adults. Many AEDs come with smaller paediatric pads or have a switch that puts the machine in paediatric mode. However if these aren’t available it’s advisable to use normal pads. Placing one pad on the child’s back and one on their chest will help to deliver the shocks they need to restore their heart’s natural rhythm.


Defibrillators in schools


Thousands of schools are set to benefit from defibrillators as the Government has recognised the importance of both installing the life-saving equipment and providing those working with children with the necessary training.


Nurseries, schools and other childcare facilities are equally keen to embrace defibrillators to help prevent the number of SCA deaths in the young.


Should your child’s school have a defibrillator?


If you believe your child’s school should have a defibrillator on the premises and that staff should know how to use one, raise the issue with them.


If the school doesn’t have enough funds to cover the cost of a defibrillator, there are other options such as leasing one over a period of up to five years.


An AED is such a vital piece of equipment that can help anyone who suffers a SCA. So having one placed in all public places including schools is imperative in order to help save lives.

Author bio: Niamh Spence is a content writer for defibshop – the largest independent supplier of defibrillators and defibrillator training in the UK. Head to www.defibshop.co.uk to find out more.

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