First aid protocols for an unresponsive person during COVID-19

Providing first aid during the COVID-19 pandemic can raise questions around safety and transmission. Outlined below are the first aid protocols that should be followed when attending to an unresponsive person.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving, and an individual's risk is variable depending on location. If someone’s heart stops, and the First Aider is concerned they may have had respiratory symptoms, it is at the individual's discretion to perform or not perform mouth-to-mouth breaths based on personal preference. It’s still important to call emergency medical services and find an AED. If the individual chooses to perform breaths, they can also use a barrier device, such as a pocket mask, to help protect themselves.

CPR with breaths is recommended for people who have been trained in CPR, but as an alternative, hands-only CPR can be performed until help arrives if the First Aider is unsure about putting their mouth on a stranger’s mouth, or has concerns the person may have COVID-19. If the individual chooses to perform hands-only CPR, they should first call 9-1-1, lay a cloth, a towel, or clothing over the person’s mouth and nose to prevent any potential spread of the virus through contaminated air or saliva, and then push hard and fast in the centre of the person’s chest until advanced help arrives. If the First Aider believes the person may have COVID-19, they should state their concerns to the emergency response telecommunicator so everyone who responds can be aware of the potential for COVID-19 transmission.