Explore our Heart Hub

AED use in first aid emergency

Explore our heart hub and discover what the difference is between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest, find first aid tips on how to deal with an emergency situation and read our case studies about people that have used their first aid training to save someone in real life.

Heart attack or cardiac arrest?

Would you know which was which in a first aid emergency? People often get confused about what the difference is between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest and it is vital that you can recognise the signs symptoms and act accordingly.

Cardiac arrest

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops working completely – the person will have collapsed and be unresponsive and not breathing.

How to help

Read about how you might change the way you give CPR during the coronavirus pandemic here

  1. Call 999 or ask someone else to do it.
  2. Give 30 chest compressions: push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest around 5-6cm and then release.
  3. Give two rescue breaths; tilt their head back, pinch their nose, seal your mouth over their mouth and blow steadily.
  4. Continue with cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths until help arrives.


What is an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)?

An AED is a portable machine that can shock the heart back into normal rhythm. You can find them in many public places, such as train stations, shopping centres or schools.

Helping someone who is unresponsive and not breathing when an AED is available

  1. Check for breathing by looking, listening, and feeling for breaths.
    - Tilt their head back and lift their chin to open their airway. Look at their chest or stomach to see if it is moving, listen and feel for normal breaths on your cheek.
    - If they are not breathing normally you will not see, hear, or feel signs of normal breathing.
  2. Call 999 immediately or ask someone else to do it. Ask someone to get the AED.
  3. Give cycles of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths.
    - To give chest compressions push firmly downwards in the middle of their chest and then release.
    - To give rescue breaths tilt their head back, seal your mouth over their mouth and pinch their nose. Blow steadily.4. Ask a helper to open the AED, turn it on if necessary and follow all its voice prompts.
    - Continue to give chest compressions and rescue breaths.
    - Try to minimise any interruptions to chest compressions.
    - The AED will give step by step instructions.

Why not put your first aid skills to the test and take our heart quiz now!

Heart attack

A heart attack is a blockage of blood to the heart – the person may have persistent, vice-like chest pain, which may spread to their arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.

  1. Call 999.
  2. Sit them down and reassure them until help arrives.
  3. If available give them an aspirin to chew slowly. They should not take more than 300mg in one dose.

Would you have the heart to help?

Knowing how to act quickly could make all the difference in an emergency. In fact, if someone is unresponsive and not breathing, giving immediate chest compressions can help double their chance of survival*.

Read our blog featuring real life stories of how people have used their first aid skills to help people who have become unresponsive and stopped breathing.

How can you help?

Over 100,000 UK businesses trust us with their first aid training needs. For more than 35 years we have worked with companies of all types to reduce risks and save lives in the workplace.

Book a first aid course

Get your team trained for first aid at work on a Red Cross course. Our interactive courses provide the practical skills and confidence to help save lives.
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Buy or hire an AED for your workplace

We offer a range of AEDs to buy or hire, giving you peace of mind that you're doing all you can to keep people safe in your workplace.

Download our first aid app

With our British Red Cross apps you’re only two taps away from learning how to help someone in a first aid emergency.

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*Source: Resuscitation Council