Can You Do CPR with One Hand in an Emergency?


man holding up 1 arm for CPR

CPR is used by trained professionals every day to resuscitate people or keep them alive long enough to get to further medical treatment. It is important to know all your options for CPR which includes being prepared to perform it with one hand.

CPR can be performed with one hand in an emergency situation. This is appropriate if you need to perform CPR on a baby or small child or if you have a broken or incapacitated arm and need to perform CPR on an adult.

Now that we know it is possible to perform CPR with one hand let’s take a quick look at how to handle situations where one-handed CPR will be useful.

Performing CPR with an Injured Arm

CPR is an important skill set to have to be prepared for any emergency situation. Since the need for CPR does not go away if you have a disabled arm it is important to be prepared for this scenario.

Your ability to perform CPR with one hand will really depend on your size, the size of the other person, your strength, and your endurance.

Basic CPR with Two Hands

  1. Find a level area free of hazards to perform CPR.
  2. Interlace your hands and place them centered their sternum.
  3. Create a base where your shoulders line up directly with your hands vertically.
  4. Transfer your weight into your hands to compress their chest in 30 short rapid compressions to simulate a heartbeat.
  5. Open their airway by tilting their head to the side.
  6. Check for breathing.
  7. Do two rescue breaths into their mouth.
  8. Repeat until help arrives.

It takes many compressions to get blood to the brain so do not take breaks when you are performing CPR. Ultimately your goal is to enable their brain to get enough blood and oxygen to restart normal breathing and heartbeats.

Basic CPR with One Hand

Doing CPR with one hand is a bit different than completing the maneuver with two hands. The core of the movement is basically the same though.

  1. Find a level area free of hazards to perform CPR.
  2. Place your hand centered on their sternum.
  3. Create a base where your active shoulder lines up directly with your hands vertically.
  4. Find the horizontal balance point that works best for your body, typically in the center of your own chest and compress their chest in 30 short rapid compressions to simulate a heartbeat.
  5. Open their airway by tilting their head to the side.
  6. Check for breathing.
  7. Do two rescue breaths into their mouth.
  8. Repeat until help arrives.

When performing this action with one hand, you don’t have the same strong base that two hands can offer. You will have to adjust your body and posture to find the ideal balance position to apply enough pressure to compress the chest in a way that won’t completely tire you out.

One-handed CPR will be more difficult to execute for long periods of time and the force generated will not match CPR methods that involve using both arms.

Remember that CPR has been shown to be effective when they can be performed for up to twenty minutes or longer. You’ll need to figure the best way to apply chest compressions for your body type so you will not tire yourself out too early.

When Should You Perform CPR: Signs to Look for

CPR can save a life when applied properly. However, if it is done when someone doesn’t need it, it can actually cause damage so it is important to be sure that the person needs it before proceeding.

Some things to look out for to determine in their need CPR include:

  1. Verbal Inquiry – check to see if they are conscious first. Tapping them on the shoulder and asking if they can hear you or need your help will be enough. If they are conscious they do not need CPR.
  2. Breathing – visually check to see if their chests are rising and falling. If their chests are not rising and falling move your cheek to their mouth and nose area to feel if they are breathing. Any signs of breathing mean you will not need to perform CPR.
  3. Pulse – check their pulse in their wrist or their carotid artery to see if their heart is still beating. If they are breathing and have a pulse do not perform CPR. If they have a pulse and are not breathing try to clear their airway with a Heimlich maneuver or tilting their head to remove an obstruction then perform only rescue breathing.

It is very important to make sure that you are familiar with the signs that somebody needs CPR before executing CPR so be familiar with the signs.

Performing One-Handed CPR on a Child

Performing CPR on a child is roughly the same as performing it on an adult. Your size, as well as the size of the child, determines whether or not you should one or two hands. Follow the steps in one of the previous sections depending on which form of CPR is appropriate for the situation.

Please note that you need to take care to find the proper area on the sternum for performing chest compressions on the child. It is easy to crack ribs on a child’s body. If you are not sure exactly where to place your hand or hands center directly in between their nipples.

Performing One-Handed CPR on a Baby

Performing CPR on a baby is a bit different. The basic steps remain the same: check for responsiveness, breathing, and a pulse. It is usually easier to check for a pulse on a baby using the brachial artery found on the inside part of the arm around the biceps.

Some of the key differences performing CPR on a baby are:

  1. Compression Depth – the depth of the compressions changes to about 1.5 inches or a third of the depth of their chest.
  2. Finger Compressions – 2-3 fingers are all that are required for performing CPR on a baby.
  3. Body Placement the baby’s body would typically be supported in the other hand but if you only have one arm available you can place them on your lap or knee or even a hard ground surface if needed.
  4. Rescue Breaths – rescue breaths are different on babies and you can actually cup both their nose and mouth when giving them rescue breaths.

Noting some of these key differences can make a huge difference in your ability to perform CPR successfully on a bay.

CPR Situation Tips

Check your environment to make sure it is safe to do CPR in the location. Make sure somebody calls 911 or runs to get help before starting CPR so that the person can receive emergency medical care as soon as possible

If you are with other people trained in CPR take turns performing CPR. This will keep people from getting too tired and reducing the quality of their chest compressions and rescue breaths both of which are vital especially in the early stages of executing CPR.

Final Thoughts

While it is not as easy it is definitely possible to execute one-handed CPR effectively in an emergency situation.

One-handed CPR is an important survival skill to pick up and is worthwhile to pick up as skill in both everyday life and a SHTF scenario.

I would recommend going out and receiving formal certified hands-on education for emergency CPR and not relying solely on an online guide since you never know when you can save a life.

Related Questions

Do you break bones when giving CPR? Unfortunately, in up to 30% of cases where CPR is performed, you can fracture ribs or the sternum.

Can you get sued for performing CPR? In most places, good samaritan laws protect you from being sued for rendering aid. Be familiar with the laws in your area to be sure.

Jim James

Jim James spent most of his childhood outdoors fishing on lakes in his area. Due to his scouting background, he has always been interested in survival, camping, and the outdoors in general. Jim is a best-selling author and has a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. He lives with his family in Charlotte, NC.

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