The importance of AEDs for young children


When you hear the words ‘sudden cardiac arrest’, what do you picture? Chances are, your mind will have conjured up images of an adult in need of help. Well, although this is most often the case, it is in fact possible for both adolescents and children to also suffer sudden cardiac arrests (SCAs) – something that is often overlooked when it comes to information surrounding the issue.
It’s common knowledge that the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) has proven to be life-saving for adults worldwide. However, many people question the correct method for child and infant AED usage, and whether it is actually safe to use defibrillators to help them while in sudden cardiac arrest.
To answer any questions you might have about AEDs for children, we’ve put together a quick guide that should lend a hand and clear things up a little.

Can AEDs be used on a child?

Although there are steps that should be taken prior to using an AED for a child, the simple answer is that, yes, AEDs can and should be used to help children in sudden cardiac arrest. According to the Paediatric Advanced Life Support guidelines, once basic life support has been established and child appropriate CPR has been administered, a defibrillator can be used on a child providing the correct pad size is used.
Remember that care should always be taken when utilising an AED, but even more so when it comes to helping a child in sudden cardiac arrest.

How to use an AED

What age is safe to use a defibrillator?

AEDs were originally made with adults in mind, but it is safe to use them on children. Due to the energy output levels of AEDs, it is important that a paediatric pad size is used.

Paediatric pads help to adjust the energy levels exerted by the defibrillator – so for children under 8 years old, this means the pads should be 8 – 12cm in size, while pads for infants should be 4.5cm.

If paediatric pads are not available, it is possible to use adult pads on children under 8 providing you use a different placement.

What is the correct child and infant AED pad placement?

Infant AED guidelines state that one paediatric defibrillation pad or electrode should be placed on the chest wall just underneath the right clavicle, while the other should be in the mid-axillary line.

If using an adult pad on a child under 8 years old, you should apply one pad to the front of the chest, and one to the back in order to avoid them touching.

A child is in sudden cardiac arrest, what should I do?

First of all, don’t panic – a clear and calm mind is important here.
If you think that a child is showing signs of sudden cardiac arrest, and they are unresponsive, not breathing and have no pulse, then you should call for help – both from people nearby and the emergency services – and immediately begin CPR until they begin to recover.  You should also send someone for the nearest defibrillator. If you’re unsure on how to do CPR this, you can read our helpful guide here.
If CPR proves to be unsuccessful, or you think more action is necessary, then you should ask for an AED and administer the appropriate pads to the child’s chest.
For more guidance on how a defibrillator works, this blog should help.