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CPR Steps: How to Do Hands-Only and Mouth-to-Mouth

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Dec 15, 2020

CPR Steps: How to Do Hands-Only and Mouth-to-Mouth

In movies, and even in real life, one of the most common signals of a medical emergency is when someone suddenly exclaims, “Does anyone here know CPR?” Usually, one or two persons step forward. However, the American Heart Association recommends that medical personnel and even those who aren’t should be well-informed about the proper procedures for CPR. Here are the correct CPR steps that can help save someone’s life. 

First Aid: What to Do After Someone Faints

What is CPR?

CPR, also known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is commonly used in emergencies when a person has stopped breathing or if a person no longer has a heartbeat. In the event that a person stops breathing, they are at risk of serious brain damage or even death. In fact, a person who has stopped breathing may die within 8 to 10 minutes.

This life-saving technique can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs in the event that medical equipment is unavailable. 

Why Do I Need to Learn CPR?

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death all over the globe. This means that many people are at risk of having a cardiac arrest somewhere outside of a hospital. People who suffer from cardiac arrest outside of hospitals can be saved by someone who knows how to perform CPR, and that someone could be you. 

Emergency Scenario: What Do I Do?

If you ever catch yourself in an emergency situation where a person is badly hurt or in need of CPR, try to stay calm and keep your bearings. Focus on the task at hand and try to keep your head straight.

Before performing CPR, make sure to:

  • Assess the situation. Are you and the victim/ casualty still in immediate danger? Try to move away from the scene of the accident where you will be safe and away from harm.
  • If the person is unconscious, try to wake them up by shaking or tapping their shoulder. Talk to them and ask questions to encourage a response. 
  • If the person remains unresponsive, ask someone nearby to call an ambulance while you or someone performs CPR on the person.

Remember the letters CAB, which stands for “Circulation, Airway, Breathing.’ This is the sequence in which to proceed when assessing the situation and casualty. 


Short gasps for air shouldn’t be considered regular breathing. Any anomalies in the way the person breathes should be a sign to start CPR as soon as possible.


Clear the victim’s airway by placing them on their back, and tilting the head by gently pushing on the forehead and lifting the chin. This makes sure that the tongue stays away from the back of the throat.


Check if the victim is breathing. Is their chest rising and falling? Can you hear their breathing through their mouth or nose? Can you feel their steady breath on your cheek? If you detect any irregularity in their breathing, monitor them and prepare to perform CPR.

CPR steps

Types of CPR

There are two types of CPR.

  1. Hands-only CPR
  2. CPR with rescue breaths

If you’re still hesitant about your skills, or have not undergone any CPR training then stick to hands-only CPR

Hands-Only CPR: Step-by-Step

Hands-only CPR involves using compressions with your hands to keep the blood circulating while the person is unconscious or when they stop breathing. To perform hands-only CPR, make sure to follow these steps:

Step 1: Make sure that the person is lying on their back on a firm surface like a table or the floor.

Step 2: Get in a kneeling position next to the person’s neck and shoulders.

Step 3: Place the heel of your hand in between the person’s nipples, or on their breastbone. Then place your other hand on top of your first hand. Interlock your fingers.

Step 4: Keep your elbows straight and your shoulders directly above your hands.

Step 5: Compress their chest by pressing straight down on their chest with your body weight, making sure to press down not more than 2.4 inches.

Step 6: Release the chest to its natural position and then press again.

Step 7: Repeat these compressions at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. Tip: You can do chest compression to the beat of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. Do this until a medical professional arrives and is able to take over.

CPR with Rescue Breaths: Step by Step

This type of CPR is only for individuals who have received proper training in CPR. To perform CPR with rescue breaths, follow these steps:

Step 1: Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone, or in the center of a person’s chest and place your fingers over that first hand. Interlock your fingers and compress by pushing down hard for at least 2 inches. Release, and then repeat.

Step 2: Stop at every 30th compression to perform 2 rescue breaths.

Step 3: To perform a rescue breath, first tilt the person’s head by lifting their chin with your two fingers. Pinch their nose, and seal your mouth over their mouth to blow. Blow into their mouth for 1 second, making sure the chest rises. Do this twice.

Step 4: Continue this cycle of 30 compressions with 2 rescue breaths until the victim is responsive or until medical help arrives.

First Aid Tips When Dealing with a Heart Attack

Important Things To Remember

When performing CPR in emergency situations:

  • Never perform CPR unless you’re confident enough. Sometimes, performing CPR incorrectly will do more harm than good.
  • Ensure that the chest compressions are continuous, avoid any interruptions in between and keep the movement steady.
  • Compress the victim’s chest using your weight but don’t lean on them. 
  • Make sure to press firmly on the center of the victim’s chest, or specifically, in between their nipples.

Key Takeaway

CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency first-aid technique used to keep the blood flowing to the brain in the event that a person stops breathing or when the heart stops. Training courses and classes are available for those who want to learn how to perform CPR properly.

Learn more about First Aid here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mia Dacumos, MD

Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Dec 15, 2020

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