How to reduce the risk of cross-infection from CPR & rescue breaths


Whenever CPR is carried out, there is a chance of cross-infection – especially when giving rescue breaths. 

In ordinary circumstances, the risk of this happening is very small, but in the age of Covid-19, every precaution must be taken to ensure this life-saving technique is performed safely. If you find yourself in the scenario where first aid assistance is urgent, consider the possible risk of infection before administering CPR.  The first thing to do is dial 999 for help. 

How to lower the risk of infection when giving breaths 

Consider these scenarios and how you should respond: 

  • Performing CPR on an adult to avoid infection 

If you are required to perform CPR on an adult, it is recommended that you do not perform rescue breaths or mouth-to-mouth ventilation. As cardiac arrest is not due to lack of oxygen, compression-only CPR may be just as effective as combined ventilation and compression in the first few minutes of an attack.

  • Performing CPR on a child to avoid infection

If the worst should happen and you are required to perform CPR on a child, it is far more likely that chest compressions alone will not be effective. If mouth-to-mouth ventilation is required, you should monitor yourself for Covid-19 symptoms for the following 14 days. The government has provided detailed guidance on what to do if you are a first responder in these circumstances. 

Out-of-hospital first aid response

For out-of-hospital response to potential cases of cardiac arrest, a first aid responder should evaluate the risk of infection, understand the importance of contacting emergency services, and what can be done to responsibly (and safely) deliver and perform CPR. 

What can be done to reduce the risk of cross contamination while performing CPR? 

Due to the heightened awareness of Covid-19 and the possibility of infection, Resuscitation Council UK has offered further advice on reducing the risk of infection when performing CPR in a community setting. 

To reduce the likelihood of infection as a responding first-aider, experts advise taking the following precautions, including: 

1.  Recognise the signs

The absence of signs of life and the absence of normal breathing are both tell-tale signs of cardiac arrest. Do not place your ear or cheek close to the patient’s mouth when you check for breathing. If in doubt, but you still suspect they may be suffering from cardiac arrest, you should, by default, begin chest compressions until professional help arrives.

2. Alert emergency services immediately

Before you begin CPR, make sure that an ambulance is on the way. If you suspect that the victim has Covid-19, alert the emergency services when you call them. 

Remember to always dial 999 in emergencies and, when you call them, inform the paramedics to the best of your knowledge about what’s happening. 

3.  Follow Resuscitation UK guidelines

If there’s any possibility of infection, Resuscitation UK advises that responders act fast. According to their guidance, you should “place a cloth/towel over the victim’s mouth and nose and attempt compression-only CPR and early defibrillation until the ambulance (or advanced care team) arrives.” 

Resuscitation Council UK Guidelines 2015 state clearly that, “If you are untrained or unable to do rescue breaths, give chest compression-only CPR (i.e. continuous compressions at a rate of at least 100–120 min-1)”. 

4.  If possible, use a defibrillator

Using  a defibrillator can significantly increase the person’s chances of survival and does not increase risk of infection. 

Public access defibrillators are normally located in a place for easy access and can be found in workplaces and public spaces, including:

  • Airports 

  • Shopping centres 

  • Community centres 

  • Train stations 

5.  If PPE is available, wear it

If the rescuer has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. FFP3 face mask, disposable gloves, eye protection), these should be worn in order to reduce risks of infection. 

6. Follow correct hygiene procedure

After performing compression-only CPR, all rescuers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water; alcohol-based hand gel is a convenient alternative. They should also seek advice from the NHS 111 coronavirus advice service or medical adviser.

How Aero Healthcare can help reduce these risks  

For more information on using CPR in an emergency, download our guide - How to Save a Life.

If you need wholesale first aid supplies to ensure that emergencies can be treated without the risk of infection, browse our product ranges to get up-to-date, relevant supplies. 

Someone delivering rescue breaths.

A breakthrough in traumatic limb injury treatment

The RapidStop® Tourniquet combines breakthrough technology with innovative design to significantly reduce application time when dealing with traumatic injuries. It has been specifically created... > More

Don't miss Aero's cutting edge defibrillator range at Safety & Health Expo

Aero will be showcasing its range of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), as well as launching the new HeartSine Gateway, at Europe’s leading health and safety event - Safety & Health... > More

Someone delivering rescue breaths.

How to reduce the risk of cross-infection from CPR & rescue breaths

Whenever CPR is carried out, there is a chance of cross-infection – especially when giving rescue breaths.  In ordinary circumstances, the risk of this happening is very small, but in... > More