Since the beginning of the HIV and AIDS era, many people have become reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth breathing on strangers for fear of contagious diseases. Although there has never been a documented case of a rescuer acquiring a disease from performing CPR over the past 35 years, some people are still hesitant to take the risk. Unfortunately, this fear of disease may make it difficult for someone you love to get help in an emergency. It is imperative that you learn CPR and be prepared to rescue a loved one in cardiac arrest.
Can I Catch a Contagious Disease While Performing CPR?
According to the American Heart Association, the risk of contracting a disease is very small. HIV or AIDS is contracted from deep body fluids associated with sexual intimacy and blood. Hepatitis C also needs blood or deeper body fluids to spread to another person. Rescue breathing does not involve the blood or body fluids required to be contagious to the rescuer. However, it is possible that you may catch the common cold or flu virus. If you are concerned about performing rescue breathing on strangers, consider a pocket mask or barrier.
What Should I do if I am Afraid to Perform CPR on a Stranger?
Consider carrying a portable mask or breathing barrier. Many styles of masks and barrier devices fold-up and may be carried on a key chain. There are two basic devices such as:
A simple flat piece of plastic that conforms to the victim’s face protects the rescuer from bodily fluids during CPR. The barrier contains a hole that is used for rescue breaths and contains a one-way valve that protects the person from the victim’s exhaled breath.
A pear shaped mask that covers the nose and mouth and contains a one-way valve that protects the rescuer from body fluids and possible contagions. Although not as portable as the breathing barrier, the mask can be stored in a glove compartment or backpack.
If you do not have a mask and are reluctant to do rescue breaths, perform chest compressions until the emergency medical professionals arrive. Perhaps applying hands-only CPR would be more comfortable for you. Chest compressions will continue to circulate whatever oxygen is in the victim’s blood supply and it is far better than doing nothing at all.
Be Prepared to Rescue You Loved One
According to the American Heart Association, over 80 percent of heart attacks happen to people when they are home. Performing CPR immediately will increase your family members’ chance of survival. With only four to six minutes to increase circulating oxygen to the delicate brain, it is vital that bystander CPR is administered immediately. Become certified in CPR and be prepared to save a life.