Q. As the father of three school-age boys, I spend a lot of time at sporting events and around children. Whenever I hear about a teenage athlete who collapsed during a practice or game, I worry how I would respond at an event Im coaching or chaperoning.
A. Sudden cardiac death in children and teens is a rare but devastating occurrence. Prevention is two-fold: primary and secondary. Primary prevention focuses on annual physical exams and cardiac screening. Recognition of early warning signs and risk factors is key.
Secondary prevention involves a rapid and appropriate response until medics arrive. By recognizing a cardiac emergency and starting cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately, a persons chance for survival increases dramatically.
Anyone who spends a lot of time around children should consider enrolling in a course for basic first aid and CPR training. These courses provide information about how to identify and respond to common emergencies.
Over the past several years, theres been an increase in the availability of devices called automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in public places. An AED can recognize certain abnormal heart rhythms and send an electric current that may be able to convert the heart to a normal rhythm.
Use of an AED in conjunction with CPR increases survival rates from cardiac collapse especially in adults. Although AEDs are designed to be easy to use, it is beneficial to have training. The American Red Cross includes AED training with CPR training. For class times and availability in your area visit redcross.org.