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Hands-Only CPR: Why We Do NOT Give Breaths Anymore (Sometimes)

By September 22, 2014September 19th, 20222 Comments

Perhaps you’ve heard of it, but there is a new approach to CPR called “Hands-Only CPR”. Inevitably, the question comes up, “Why do we not give breaths anymore?” Before I give some of the reasons, let me clear a few of things up.

Different Methods of CPR

First of all, there are actually 3 different methods of CPR. They are as follows:

  1. Friends and Family CPR. This is the hands-only CPR that is meant to be learned by the general public.
  2. Heartsaver CPR. This level is for individuals who are required to have it for employment per OSHA regulations. It still incorporates teaching to give breaths, but only because OSHA requires it as part of the training.
  3. BLS for Healthcare Providers. BLS stands for Basic Life Support, and this is what any person within the healthcare field (i.e. CNA, EMT, Nurse, Physician, etc.) needs to know. This level also incorporates giving breaths, but also expounds upon and goes a little deeper into the material.

Why Hands-Only CPR?

Ok, so now we get to the point of the topic. There are 3 primary reasons for why they have eliminated breaths from the CPR sequence.

  1. Oxygen is already in the blood. Studies show that there is already some oxygen in the blood, that if circulated with high quality compressions, can effectively sustain life until emergency personnel arrive.
  2. Individuals were intimidated by giving breaths. The thought of locking lips with a stranger is understandably an unpleasant thought. Who knows what kind of diseases that person might have!? Statistics have shown that because of this fact, among other inhibitions, CPR in its entirety was never initiated in 68% of cardiac arrest victims.
  3. Breaths were performed incorrectly. There is a technique to giving breaths. Such things as the head-tilt-chin-lift, only giving enough breaths until you see the chest rise, not blowing too forcefully. When performed incorrectly, even if the heart is restarted, can result in a fatality.

So there you have it. And believe it or not, since the outset of teaching Hands-Only CPR in 2010, statistics in survival rates have increased!

You’ve probably never heard these things in a CPR class before. That’s why when you’re looking for a class, to make sure that the instructor has a background in emergency medicine. The quality of your class will be significantly higher, and you’ll leave feeling more confident and competent to act in the event of an emergency. To find training local to you, search Class Eagle’s Health and Safety Instructor Directory. 

Learn More: When Should I NOT Perform CPR?


  • Tukz Taaca says:

    Good Afternoon,

    After I read this statement I was very puzzled. So, I looked up some information and even consulted some of my mentors and this is what I found:

    American Heart Association
    CPR MYTH: You don’t need to give breaths anymore.

    American Health & Safety Institute
    Understanding CPR for Children and Infants.

    Early CPR with effective rescue breaths may be the only treatment required to stimulate the heart and prevent an actual cardiac arrest from occurring. However, conditions can occur that result in ventricular fibrillation and for which defibrillation of a child or infant is warranted.

    When treating a child or infant suspected of being in cardiac arrest, ensure an open airway and effective rescue breaths when doing CPR. When available, always attach an AED.

    American Red Cross
    Learn Hands-Only CPR.

    Full CPR combines rescue breaths with chest compressions and is the best option in some emergencies, including those involving infants and children, drowning victims, or people who collapse due to breathing problems.

    Ellis & Associates, Starfish Aquatics, YMCA, and American Red Cross Lifeguarding – all them use rescue breathing and compressions during a drowning or near-drowning incident.

    So, I am curious as to why this statement in your blog is pushed so much? When the three major certification agencies say otherwise. I’ve been in Aquatics and Safety for 20 years and I’ve never heard that we should provide only Hands-only CPR without breaths for every situation. Lastly, as a fellow CPR/AED instructor trainer and former lifeguard instructor, I am a very effective instructor and I make sure my students understand the how’s and why’s of the class they are taking and I’m not in emergency medicine. I offer them the use of both methods and I let them know when it is appropriate to use one or the other and the advantages and disadvantages of both. Real life doesn’t present only one solution. You have to think on your feet, be adaptable, and use critical thinking to solve the problem. Save a life the best that you can with the skills and knowledge you have.

    Tukz Taaca
    Owner and Lead Instructor

    • Hi Tukz, thanks for the comment.

      There’s 3 things I’d like to respond to.

      1) The American Heart Association is actually the largest certification agency from which all other agencies produce their guidelines. It’s the gold standard among medical professionals.

      2) I qualified in the beginning of my post that there are 3 types of CPR. So, I am NOT implying that hands-only CPR is for everyone. It is primarily intended for families and individuals who want it purely for personal development. This post was not intended to “push” hands-only CPR, but simply to explain the reasoning behind it.

      3) Giving breaths is a life-saving skill, but statistics show that compressions only does have positive results. You’ve probably never heard of it because your line of work as a lifeguard requires you to have a higher level of CPR training.

      Hope that clears up some things. Feel free to give me a call or email to discuss further.

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