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Using an AED

​An AED (automated external defibrillator) is an electronic device that can analyze a heart rhythm to determine if a shock is needed for someone in cardiac arrest. While most cardiac arrests occur in adults, it can occur in a child or adolescent.

If an adult or a child over age 8 years is in cardiac arrest (not responsive, not breathing and no pulse), you should begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions, and yell for someone to call for help and get an AED. When then AED is available, continue chest compressions and rescue breathing while someone else turns on the AED and attaches the pads. If the AED says “shock advised”, press the charge button, stand clear of the patient, and press the shock button when it lights up. Then resume CPR. 

Age for Use of an AED

While all AEDS are made for adults, there are pediatric pads that adjust the energy level used. These pads are for younger children (less than 8 years). You can use adult pads for children 8 years and older. You can use adult pads for a child less than 8 years, but you may have to apply them differently than shown on the pads: apply one on the front of the chest, the other on the back, so they do not touch. Once the pads are attached, follow the instructions given by the AED.

How an AED Works

The AED will check the child’s heart rhythm and decide whether or not to deliver a shock. Be sure that no one is touching the child when a shock is delivered. Immediately after a shock is delivered, start chest compressions and rescue breathing again. It is very important to minimize interruptions of rescue breathing and chest compressions. In addition, when doing chest compressions, lift completely off the chest between compressions to allow for chest recoil.

Take A CPR Class & Learn to Use an AED

To learn more about how to use an AED, take a community or hospital class in CPR for parents and caregivers. This class will give you a chance to practice CPR and use an AED. Any attempts at CPR when needed are better than nothing. But a child’s chance of recovery is greatly improved with high-quality CPR.

Additional Information from

​Article image © Jones & Bartlett Learning​

Last Updated
Adapted from First Aid for Families (PedFACTS) (Copyright © 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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