Should you give the kiss of life to someone having a heart attack?
The ‘kiss of life’ is recommended by the British Heart Foundation and NHS but a hands-only CPR is suggested for the untrained resuscitator.
Asked by: Dan Jones, London
When faced with someone who’s collapsed and not breathing, the best medical advice is to first call 999 and then perform CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This involves locking your fingers together and pushing down hard and fast on the casualty’s chest until paramedics arrive. But there’s controversy about combining this with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation – the ‘kiss of life’, also known as ‘rescue breaths’.
Multiple studies suggest that the added benefits aren’t worth the pause in the chest compressions, and the prospect of using it on complete strangers is thought to deter many people from doing anything at all. Nevertheless, the British Heart Foundation and the NHS both still recommend using mouth-to-mouth where possible, suggesting an alternative ‘hands-only’ CPR for those who don’t feel comfortable giving rescue breaths or who haven’t been trained.
Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.