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The Heart Foundation of Jamaica is urging caregivers of children to be fully aware of the importance of knowing when a child’s life is on the line and how and when to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to a child.

Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Director of Emergency Cardiac Care at the Heart Foundation, Dr. Hugh Wong, pointed out that under the new guidelines for administering CPR in the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some exceptions for paediatric CPR.

“There are certain circumstances in which you may want to do airway intervention by giving breaths. This is a situation where you may be at home with a child and that child is a relative and you are living in the home with that child,” he said.

Dr. Wong, who is also Head of the Accident and Emergency Department at the Kingston Public Hospital, pointed out that the cause of cardiac arrest in a child is usually due to a respiratory problem and that giving breaths can be a lifesaver in these cases.

In this instance, he said, the caregiver will have to decide whether they should give breaths to the infant or child, rather than chest compressions only.

He cited the guidelines from The American Heart Association (AHA), which state that one should consider giving breaths if they live in the same household with that child and you may have a similar COVID-19 status as the child.

“Once you assess that risk, you may want to decide as a relative to take the decision of giving breaths or airway management to that child, because the airway is usually the cause of a cardiac arrest in a child,” he explained.

For his part, Consultant Paediatric Anaesthetist and Intensivist and CPR Instructor at HFJ, Dr. Lambert Innis, explained that it is very important for caregivers of children to know what to look for when a child’s life is on the line, and that the most common factors that lead to respiratory risk in children is usually a foreign body obstructing the airway.

He added that the common ones in Jamaica are usually guinep seeds, marbles or hair baubles.

“A foreign body obstructing the airway of a child is very common to us in Jamaica and it would not be uncommon to get a call that a child is on its way to the hospital, blue from lack of oxygen and the anxious caregiver doesn’t know what to do,” Dr. Innis said.

“Sometimes they (usually the mother) will try a thing and very often that little that the mother did, by just blowing into the child’s mouth, compressing the chest, turning the child upside down and hitting the back, shifting the foreign body out of the way and air is at last able to get into the child’s lung, would have averted a catastrophe,” he argued.

He said that this is among the issues that CPR Week would like to bring to the public in terms of learning skills, as they may make a major difference one day to saving a child.

CPR Week is being observed from October 26 to 31 under the theme ‘Surviving with CPR’, and members of the public, especially caregivers of children, are encouraged to contact the Heart Foundation of Jamaica and sign up for courses in CPR.

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