With many people staying home during the COVID-19 outbreak, the chances for a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) happening at home are significantly higher. As a result, people are being encouraged to recognise SCA symptoms and respond effectively – but how can you do this safely during the pandemic?
COVID-19 and SCA – What Everyone Should Know
A number of studies have shown that people with heart disease are high-risk for SCA and COVID-19 and, should they contract the virus, are more likely to have a severe or fatal case. According to Comilla Sasson of the American Heart Association’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care program, “The mortality for critically ill COVID-19 patients is high and rises with increasing age and comorbidities, particularly cardiovascular disease”, which makes it especially important that these and other high-risk people stay at home and practice social distancing.
The problem here is that while these people are rightly staying at home, a SCA event could occur. While offices, gyms, factories, schools and shopping centres are usually equipped with a defibrillator, our homes are not – and this means that there is a very high risk of an SCA at home being fatal. In Italy, researchers showed a 58% increase in at-home SCAs during the first 40 days of the pandemic.
But what about calling an ambulance? Of course, this is the first thing you should do in the event of an SCA. Unfortunately, our emergency services are under a lot of pressure due to the pandemic, and it will be difficult to get an ambulance to a patient in time. A SCA cuts off oxygen flow to the brain and organs immediately, and every minute that goes by reduces their chance of survival by 10%. This means that even the fastest response by an ambulance is less effective than a fast response by nearby bystanders.
How Can Bystanders Help?
COVID-19 is very contagious and it is natural that bystanders are concerned about helping someone in case they have the virus. However, there are ways that you can save the life of a family member, neighbour or member of your community while protecting yourself from the virus.Here’s how:
- Wear a mask: Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth mask to protect the patient and yourself from virus particles. If you do not have a mask, wrap a scarf or t-shirt around your nose and mouth. Do not touch your nose and mouth at all once this mask is on.
- Wash your hands: If possible, wash your hands before treating the patient. You can use a 70% alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Put on gloves: If you have disposable or plastic/rubber gloves, put them on before touching the patient.
- Learn bystander CPR: This is a CPR method that does not require mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. By only using chest compressions, you can pump the oxygen in the person’s bloodstream to essential organs, and should be sufficient while waiting for emergency services to arrive. Rescue breathing is advisable for young children but does carry the risk of passing on the virus if either person has it.
- Use an AED: Ask anyone nearby if they have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). These devices are designed to be very simple and safe to use on adults and children, and it will walk you through the life-saving process using voice commands and visuals, supplying a safe shock to restart the heart. It will instruct you on how to and when to perform bystander CPR, and the kits come complete with gloves, masks and other necessary items. It is very safe to use an AED on a SCA patient during the pandemic, as these devices are not highly aerosolising, so will not increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. Remember, only use an AED if the patient’s heart has stopped. They will be unresponsive, unconscious and have no pulse.
- After emergency services have arrived: After assisting someone experiencing SCA, remove your gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20-30 seconds. Remove your mask, disposing of your mask and gloves or washing them thoroughly if reusable. Wash your hands again after touching these items.
Buy an AED for Home or Community Use
An AED is a life-saving device that is critical during the pandemic, ensuring fast, effective assistance in the event of an SCA. These defibrillators are affordable and ideal for home use, as well as for body corporates, apartment buildings and community groups.
At DefibsPlus, we will ensure that you not only get the right device for your needs, but that you and your family are fully trained to use a defibrillator safely during the COVID-19 crisis. Contact us today for more information on AEDs and defibrillator training in Australia. Together, we can save lives!