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12 Common CPR Fears and How to Overcome Them

You're strolling through your favorite clothing store when the unimaginable occurs. Someone collapses next to you in the aisle and does not get up.

You suspect a cardiac arrest, but instead of running to help, you freeze as adrenaline floods your system.

You're well aware that they require CPR.

But you're afraid of starting CPR on yourself.

If this describes you, know that you are not alone.

A cardiac event is a terrifying experience.

However, because CPR can save a life, it is worthwhile to overcome your fears of CPR. To assist you, we've compiled a list of the top 12 CPR fears and how to overcome them.

1. Lack of self-confidence

Confidence is built through practice. However, few people have the opportunity to perform CPR more than a few times in their lives.

Many people are afraid of CPR because they've never done it before. Will they "do it correctly"?

This is a common phobia.

People are frequently afraid of new experiences. However, performing CPR is a very simple set of steps.

You can learn how to do it by taking a CPR course and even earning a certificate to demonstrate your knowledge. When you finish the course, you'll be confident that you know everything you need to know to save a life safely and competently.

2. You Might Injure or Kill Someone

Let's get the big one out of the way: CPR. Many people are afraid of this, so they freeze during an event.

Fact: A person experiencing a cardiac arrest has a better chance of survival if CPR is started as soon as possible.

Hurting someone isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. In fact, if you perform CPR correctly, you will almost certainly break the victim's rib. According to Science Direct, 86% of men and 91% of women will suffer a sternum (chest bone) or rib fracture as a result of CPR.

Trying is always preferable to doing nothing. A rib or sternum fracture is not fatal. They would, however, not survive a cardiac arrest without CPR.

What about killing someone? If CPR is required, the person's heart will have already stopped, so you will not be killing them. You are allowing them to survive and have a better quality of life after the event. You can keep blood and oxygen flowing to the brain if you start CPR before paramedics arrive. This reduces the likelihood and severity of brain damage.

3. Believing that only doctors, nurses, and EMTs should perform CPR...

In an ideal world, when someone asks, "Is there a doctor onboard?" a doctor would always respond.

However, a medical professional will not always be available. Waiting for a medical professional wastes valuable time. The longer a person waits to receive CPR, the less likely it is that it will help them survive and live a good life.

Every second counts.

Every minute that a person goes without CPR reduces their chances of survival by 10%. That means you only have about 10 minutes before you're out of luck. According to SCDF, an ambulance in an ideal situation arrives in 15-30 minutes.

This is why everyone should be trained in CPR.

Even if the person survives, brain damage begins after four minutes of oxygen deprivation, according to

So, yes, daycare workers, teachers, clerks, receptionists, bank tellers, construction workers, police officers, and parents — almost anyone from early adolescence to adulthood can start CPR and should keep it going until help arrives.

Overcoming CPR phobias is a worthy goal.

Bystander CPR Is Important

According to, when a bystander begins CPR rather than waiting for an emergency response, the chances of survival double.

4. Being Sued

Every state has laws in place to protect people from facing legal ramifications for attempting to save someone's life.

Even if you were sued, a judge would most likely dismiss it. We want brave people to face their fears of CPR and step up to help strangers when they are at their most vulnerable as a society. These heroes should be rewarded rather than punished. The legal system treats rescuers in this manner.

What about DNR?

Even if a person has a signed legal document stating "no CPR" such as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate Order) or an Advance Directive stating ",No CPR", you have no way of knowing that at the time.

There isn't time to find out. If you don't know, the legal system will support your decision to provide life-saving treatment. It's always better to err on the side of caution in this situation.

You're generally safe as long as you act reasonably based on the information you have and the situation. However, if you are certain that a person has signed a document stating that they do not want CPR or have clearly communicated this to you, you should respect their wishes.

5. Being accused of failing to obtain consent or of inappropriate touching

You are a mature adult. You are aware of the rules of consent and understand that

"no means no."

You are aware, however, that touching without consent can be misinterpreted.

Unfortunately, a University of Pennsylvania study found that women (39%) are less likely than men (45%) to receive CPR from a bystander due to this fear.

As a result, men are 23% more likely than women to survive cardiac arrest.

The Law Is On Your Side

You are protected by the law.

Even if you believe someone has strong religious, moral, or ethical beliefs, a cardiac arrest is not the time to be concerned about touching their chest.

Refusing to perform CPR because you are afraid of touching a woman's breasts could have serious consequences.

In an emergency, modesty should not be considered.

Nothing can prevent someone from making claims about you. However, if you perform CPR, abdominal thrusts (Heimlich Maneuver), first aid, or other lifesaving treatments, the law is on your side.

What about social media platforms?

Many people are also concerned about what others will say about them on social media. Public opinion will generally be on your side, and even if some social media trolls say negative things about you, others will defend you.

Most people are aware that a person experiencing a cardiac arrest cannot and should not be required to consent. No one would ever receive CPR if they did. More lives would be lost as a result.

6. Contracting a Disease

It's natural to avoid bodily fluids such as spit, especially if you don't know this person. The instinct to think spit is disgusting protects us from disease.

However, the chances of catching something that will actually cause you significant harm are extremely remote.

Even if you did catch something, your immune system would be able to handle the majority of it, and modern medicine would be able to handle the rest. So it's not impossible, but the chances are slim. Hands-Only CPR can be just as effective as conventional CPR. Furthermore, Hands-Only CPR is an easy-to-remember and effective option for people who have previously been trained in CPR but are hesitant to help because they are unsure they can remember and perform the steps of conventional CPR.

How about HIV/AIDS and COVID?

For good reason, HIV remains a terrifying disease. HIV is not transmitted through saliva. It travels through the blood. However, HIV is no longer a death sentence, as it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

With proper medical treatment, people can live long and prosperous lives while preventing the disease from spreading to others.

Covid is also frightening right now. It can be transmitted via breath and saliva. However, here are the facts. We should also prioritise saving lives and during such sistuation there is no time to find out.

Do I Have to Give Mouth-to-Mouth to Give Good CPR?

If you feel uncomfortable giving a stranger rescue breath, know that mouth-to-mouth safety masks are available. Even if you don't have one, hands-only CPR without breathing can save lives.

On the other hand, you may be concerned about passing on a disease that you have. That is something to be aware of if you have a dangerous disease.

Hand-only CPR is a viable option for you.

7. Lack of Appropriate Equipment

Typical CPR equipment includes:

  • A phone to call for assistance

  • An external defibrillator that works automatically (AED)

  • A mask for rescue breath

  • A tool (such as a card or app) that will remind you of the CPR steps if you don't remember them.

The most important CPR equipment you have, by far, is your own hands. You don't have to wait until you have other equipment to begin CPR. If you don't have a phone, yell for help and begin CPR.

8. Not Keeping Rhythm

Our official favourite by default would be the tune to Stayin Alive by The Bee Gees however the beats of these popular songs can help you keep rhythm when doing CPR:

  • Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)

  • Stronger (Britney Spears)

  • Set Fire to the Rain (Adele)

  • Everybody (Backstreet Boys)

  • Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani)

  • Work It (Missy Elliot)

  • Sweet Home Alabama (Lynard Skynard)

  • Uptown Funk

  • California Dreamin’ (Bobby Womack)

  • Let’s Get it Started (Black-Eyed Peas)

If none of these songs sound familiar, you can find hundreds more online.

9. Scene Unsafe

An unsafe scene may include (just to name a few):

  • Active fire

  • Unstable building

  • A person collapsing in the middle of a busy street

  • Broken glass, sharp objects, or slippery surfaces

  • Downed power lines

  • Rapidly rising floodwaters

If there is a risk to you or the victim, you should take precautions before beginning first aid. If you're in the middle of the highway, don't try to render first aid because you might get hit by a car. If you feel compelled to enter an unsafe environment to administer first aid, always notify someone else or wait for assistance.

10. Believing that it is already too late

You may not know how long someone has been there if their heart has stopped. Unless it's obvious that they've been there for hours or days, proceed to render first aid by following the proper procedures.

11. Believing that no one will dial 995 If You're By Yourself

Ideally, you'll have two people who are familiar with CPR. In these cases, one should dial 995 while looking for the AED. They assist with CPR after the person dials 995 and provides information and found an AED if any is nearby. Alternatively, you can also point to standing passerby to assist you in calling for 995 for ambulance and get the AED.

But what if you're the only one there?

It depends on whether you are a lone rescuer if the victim is a child/infant or a teen/adult.

Current recommendations for a child/infant are to yell for help and then begin CPR immediately.

If the victim is an adult, call 995 first if possible and talk to 995, activate your phone hands free mode while performing CPR. 12. No one will perform CPR if you are the one in distress.

According to a study, more than half of all Singaporean know CPR. Some of these people have completed formal training since its almost mandatory for a workplace to send their employees for first aid training.

Some people may believe they are knowledgeable. The important point to make here is that people understand that CPR can save lives, and many adults now have taken the initiative to learn first aid.

However, we must not become complacent.

We're talking about a life here. We recommend that you ask those around you if they are familiar with first aid. Begin the conversation at work, school, or the supermarket as well as your own circle of friends. The more people who know first aid around you, the better your chances of survival.

Consider getting your CPR certification and becoming an advocate for first aid training.

Delivered in a simple, practical format, it covers the management of common everyday first aid situations such as heart attack, choking and bleeding according to the Singapore Resuscitation and First Aid Council guidelines.

The 100% eLearning Basic First Aid Course covers the essential skill of First Aid that everyone should know and be able to do. Included is an introduction to CPR+AED with instructions of use and application.

To make the first step towards becoming first aid trained check our course here to find out more.

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