Hesperian Health Guides

No Heartbeat

where to listen for a heartbeat, on the left side of the chest.

Check for a pulse (heartbeat) on the neck, as shown in Rescue Breathing. Or listen by putting your ear on the left side of the chest (where the drawing shows an X).

If there is no heartbeat, try to restart it with chest compressions. It is important to start chest compressions quickly, so if you are not sure if you have found a heartbeat, or if the heartbeat is very faint, it is safest to do chest compressions.

Give chest compressions
Push hard and fast on the center of the chest 30 times. Push straight down, about 5 cm (2 in). Try for a fast rate, at least 100 times a minute, but the exact rate is not important. Push hard and fast!

a woman counting while she does chest compressions.
One, two, three, four, five...
Arms straight
One hand on top of the other

Give rescue breaths
After 30 chest compressions, give 2 rescue breaths that make the chest rise.

Continue with compressions and breaths
Keep alternating between 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths. You may have to do this for a long time. Continue until the person is breathing and alert, or until there is no doubt he is dead.

Get help
If you can get the person to a hospital quickly, do so. Keep giving chest compressions and rescue breathing on the way. This will help to keep the body functions going until you can get help.

This may bring life back to someone after electrocution, drowning, if he suffered a very hard blow to the chest, hypothermia (too cold), or drug overdose.Chest compressions are less likely to help someone after a heart attack, but are worth trying, especially if you can get more medical help. (See more about heart attacks.)

A medical device called a defibrillator gives an electric shock to re-start the heart after a heart attack. Find out before emergencies happen if there are defibrillators in your community and where they are kept. They are sometimes found in ambulances, or in public places like a police station or a large hotel.

This page was updated:17 Sep 2020