Hands-Only CPR

Hands-Only CPR

why teach students Hands-Only CPR?

Did you know that when a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on getting immediate CPR from someone nearby? CPR can double, or even triple, a victim’s chance of survival! Why? Chest compressions push oxygen through the body to keep vital organs alive.

When you teach students the two simple steps of Hands-Only CPR, you’re teaching them that if they see an adult or teen suddenly collapse, they can “Be the Beat” and pump blood to the victim’s vital organs until EMS arrives.

Teaching Hands-Only CPR is simple. Just follow these two steps:
1. Call 911
2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest

See the additional information section below for frequently asked questions and answers about Hands-Only CPR.


For more details, download our CPR Chest Diagram.

additional information

  • Who should receive Hands-Only CPR?

    Hands-Only CPR is recommended for use on teens or adults whom you see suddenly collapse.

  • Will Hands-Only CPR increase the chance of someone near the victim taking action in a cardiac arrest?

    Yes. In a national survey, Americans who had not been trained in CPR within the past five years said they would be more likely to perform Hands-Only CPR than conventional CPR on a teen or adult who collapses suddenly. Also, Hands-Only CPR is an easy-to-remember and effective option for people who have been trained in CPR before but are afraid to help because they are not confident that they can remember and perform the steps of conventional CPR.

  • Are there times when I should use conventional CPR with breaths?

    Yes. There are many medical emergencies that cause a person to be unresponsive and to stop breathing normally. In those emergencies, conventional CPR that includes mouth-to-mouth breathing may provide more benefit than Hands-Only CPR. The American Heart Association recommends CPR with a combination of breaths and compressions for:

    • All infants (up to age 1)
    • Children (up to puberty)
    • Anyone found already unconscious and not breathing normally
    • Any victims of drowning, drug overdose, collapse due to breathing problems, or prolonged cardiac arrest
  • Why don't teens or adults who suddenly collapse need mouth-to-mouth breathing in the first few minutes after their cardiac arrest?

    When a teen or adult suddenly collapses with cardiac arrest, his or her lungs and blood contain enough oxygen to keep vital organs healthy for the first few minutes, as long as someone provides high-quality chest compressions with minimal interruption to pump blood to the heart and brain.

    • When a teen or adult suddenly collapses with cardiac arrest, the cause is usually an abrupt onset of an abnormal heart rhythm. A common abnormal rhythm causing cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF causes the heart to quiver so it doesn't pump blood. Before a sudden collapse, the teen or adult was probably breathing normally. This means there may be enough oxygen in the person's blood for the first several minutes after cardiac arrest.
    • Many cardiac arrest victims have gasping, which could bring some oxygen into the lungs. If the victim's airway is open, allowing the chest to expand back to its normal position after each compression may also bring some oxygen into the lungs.
    • For these reasons, the most important thing someone near the victim can do for a person in cardiac arrest is to pump blood to the brain and to the heart muscle, delivering the oxygen that still remains in the lungs and blood. Do this by giving high-quality chest compressions with minimal interruptions. Interruptions in compressions to give mouth-to-mouth breaths may bring some additional oxygen into the lungs, but the benefit of that oxygen can be offset if you stop the blood flow to the brain and heart muscle for more than a few seconds (especially in the first few minutes after a cardiac arrest when there is still plenty of oxygen in the lungs and blood).
  • Now that I know about Hands-Only CPR, do I still need to learn CPR with mouth-to-mouth breathing?

    CPR is a skill that can be improved with practice. The American Heart Association continues to recommend that you take a CPR course to practice and learn the skills of CPR, including giving high-quality chest compressions. People who have had CPR training are more likely to give high-quality chest compressions and are more confident about their skills than are those who have not been trained (or have not been trained in the past five years). Even a very short CPR training program that you can do at home, such as the 20-minute CPR Anytime® program, provides skills training and practice that can prepare you to perform high-quality chest compressions.

    Besides, there are many medical emergencies that cause a person to be unresponsive and to stop breathing normally. In those emergencies, CPR that includes mouth-to-mouth breathing may provide more benefit than Hands-Only CPR. Some examples include:

    • Unresponsive infants and children
    • Anyone who is found already unconscious and not breathing normally
    • Victims of drowning, drug overdose, or collapse due to breathing problems
  • Is Hands-Only CPR as effective as conventional CPR?

    Any attempt at CPR is better than no attempt. Hands-Only CPR performed by a bystander has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR with mouth-to-mouth breaths in the first few minutes of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Conventional CPR may be better than Hands-Only CPR for certain victims, though, such as infants and children, teens or adults who are found in cardiac arrest (whom you did not see collapse) or victims of drowning, drug overdose, or collapse due to breathing problems.