Basic CPR Tips for High Altitude Hikers
By Erik Neilson
, last updated December 15, 2011
For high altitude hikers, learning proper safety precautions and CPR techniques is of the utmost importance. Hiking in high altitude situations dramatically increases the risk of heart attack and other emergency situations in many people, given the thin air and lack of oxygen that come into play. As a result, those who hike in high altitudes on an even occasional basis owe it to themselves to learn at least basic CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation). CPR can help to restart an individual’s normal breathing pattern, and can sometimes mean the difference between life and death in outdoor scenarios. The following are just a few basic CPR tips for high altitude hikers, although taking a class and getting properly certified is always recommended. Also, it’s important to note that one should always call 9-1-1 as soon as CPR is assumed to be necessary, as professional help may be required.
Identify the Problem
One of the most important things you can do before performing CPR is to identify what has caused the individual to have a problem in the first place. This can drastically affect how you go about trying to save the victim, and should never be skipped. For example, if the victim has been swimming in cold water (high altitude water is almost always very cold), he or she may need to have water removed from the airway in order for CPR to be effective. Place the individual on his or her stomach and try to remove any water by pressing (in short bursts) above the abdomen and right below the chest. This is especially important if the individual went under water and began to drown, in which case water removal is almost always necessary before further CPR practices can be performed.
Begin Chest Compressions
Once you’ve identified the cause of the situation (and removed any water, if necessary), it’s time to begin making chest compressions. Many people worry about hurting the individual at this point, but the fact is that chest compressions are essential to potentially saving a life, and you aren’t likely to make the situation any worse than it is through improper technique. Place your hands along the sternum directly above the diaphragm and push down hard. Repeatedly push down like this at a rate of approximately 103 beats per minute, which is just under two beats per second. Being afraid to perform chest compressions is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Be confident in your ability to potentially save a life.
Incorporate Rescue Breaths
If standard hands-only CPR doesn’t seem to be working, you can try to incorporate rescue breaths into the process. Rescue breaths should be given at a rather of 30:2 in relation to chest compressions. That equates to thirty chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths, then repeat the process. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when giving rescue breaths is that you should not interrupt the flow of chest compressions, as this will do nothing to help the individual’s chance of survival. As a result, those who are not confident in their abilities to provide rescue breaths should avoid doing so altogether.