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First aid and CPR guidelines revisited

Forget everything you know about treating jellyfish stings.

And, while you're at it, it's time to relearn your CPR strategy, too.

The American Heart Association has been busy revising its guidelines for administering CPR and, in a separate effort, rewriting some of its basic first-aid advice. That work resulted in Monday's release of two documents, one co-sponsored by the American Red Cross that announces new first-aid practices and a second issued by the AHA addressing a big change in CPR. The Red Cross says it's reviewing that document and will determine whether to alter its training practices accordingly.

In this file photo a person participates in an American Red Cross CPR training in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

The first-aid guidelines (which were last revised in 2005 and will appear in the AHA's journal Circulation) reaffirm that applying vinegar is the best way to treat jellyfish stings; they also call for "applying a pressure immobilization bandage to any venomous snake bite, with pressure being applied around the entire length of the bitten extremity." Those changes, while vitally important in the specific instances to which they apply, may not have the widespread impact that the new approach CPR likely will.

Just when we'd all got used to the A-B-C -- for "airway, breathing, compressions" way of doing CPR, the AHA now wants to mix things up. The new mnemonic is C-A-B; we're now supposed to start chest compressions right after calling 911; adjusting the airway comes next, leaving the rescue breaths for last.

Why the change? Recent research has shown that chest compressions are the key to saving lives when heart attacks strike, so moving them to the top of the list makes sense. The AHA also wants to encourage more people to be willing to administer CPR; making the mouth-to-mouth breathing a less prominent part of the package may make the procedure more palatable.

Are you up to date on your CPR training? Would you be more willing to perform CPR on a stranger now that the rescue breaths come last?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | October 18, 2010; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  Cardiovascular Health, First aid and CPR, General Health, Workplace health  
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