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What you need to know about AEDs

AEDAutomated external defibrillators (AEDs) are literal lifesavers, delivering a shock to restore a heart’s normal rhythm following sudden cardiac arrest. But would you know how to use one in an emergency situation? AEDs are available in many public places, including malls, grocery stores and airports, and are actually very user-friendly. Here are some pointers, courtesy of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation requiring an AED:

  •  Before using an AED, check the person to make sure there is no response (shout at or shake him or her; if the person is a child, pinch instead).
  • Call 911; if more than one person is present, have one person call emergency services and get the AED while the other person begins CPR.
  • Check the breathing and pulse. If breathing and pulse are irregular or not present, get ready to use the AED as soon as possible.
  • Turn on the defibrillator, which will give you step-by-step instructions via voice and screen prompts.
  • Make sure the wires from the electrodes are connected to the AED, and that no one is touching the person, then press the “analyze” button, which will allow the machine to check the person’s heart rhythm.
  • If the machine tells you a shock is needed, stand clear of the person before pressing the “shock” button.
  • Start or resume CPR until help arrives or the person begins moving. Stay with the person.

Some people might be afraid to use an AED because they worry that they could hurt the person if something goes wrong, and that they could be sued. However, most states have good Samaritan laws and there is the Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act, which provide a level of protection for bystanders who respond to emergencies.

If you have a heart condition that puts you at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, talk with your health care provider about purchasing one for home use.