CPR Face Shield: Protect Yourself While Helping Others

By Maria Rogerson

October 12, 2021Medicine

Living in the COVID-19 pandemic led to some big changes in our everyday lives. We’ve realised how important is hygiene and in order to avoid infection, we’d use all the tips for keeping germs at bay. And while many of us are working from home now, first responders are still out there, saving lives in these uncertain times.

Cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique that is meant for the normal function of the body and is more complicated than what it seems in TV shows and movies. CPR is a combination technique, including chest compressions and rescue breaths, which can help the heart to get blood circulating and deliver oxygen to the brain.

cpr breathing barriers
source: vmedchina.com

First aiders should always be prepared to help, but they need to minimise the risk of exposure and a CPR face shield is a simple and effective means of protection against potential infection when performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. 

It’s a barrier device, a type of personal protective equipment, designed to protect rescuers from potential exposure when performing CPR and coming into contact with vomit, blood or other substances, which may be emitted by the casualty. The chest compressions during CPR squeeze the stomach and patients may vomit by reflex. The idea is to help first aiders get through the intervening period safely and as simple as possible.

Different Types of CPR Face Shields

CPR face shields are available in two different forms. The most commonly used type of CPR face shield is a flat plastic barrier that lays across the patient’s nose and mouth. It conforms to the face and has a hole in the middle, which allows the first aider to blow through it. Depending on the brand, the hole can have a one-way valve or a filter that prevents the entry of vomit, blood or mucus into the rescuer’s mouth when giving rescue breaths to the patient.

cpr shield
source: verywellhealth.com

This type of breathing barrier is popular with first responders because it’s very portable, easy to use and easy to store. You can choose a CPR face shield in hardcover and carry it with you wherever you go, fit on your keychain, pocket or handbag. Typically, they come only with an adult mask or adult and infant masks, disposable gloves and a wipe. The masks are clear, allowing the rescuer to place them properly and monitor the patient. 

Some CPR masks have elastic on each side, so you can hook the mask around the back of the patient’s head to keep it in place while giving rescue breaths. Usually, they come with a printed diagram showing you how to use the CPR shield properly. An emergency can happen at any time and with a CPR mask at hand, you will be ready to help whenever needed.

cpr face shield
source: vmedchina.com

The other type of breathing barrier is a mask shaped like a pear, which fits over the patient’s nose and mouth. It features a one-way valve at the top, and when used properly it seals onto the face, allowing the first aider to provide rescue breaths. The technique required for making a seal with this mask can be difficult to learn and that’s why it’s most often used by professionals only.

However, it’s important to know that a CPR mask is made for keeping the rescuer safe, but it doesn’t make rescue breaths more effective than mouth-to-mouth. A CPR breathing barrier is designed to keep body fluids out of the first responder’s mouth during rescue breathing because sometimes there is no way to know if the patient is carrying any communicable diseases. 

source: redcross.org

HIV and the hepatitis family of viruses are carried in the blood and other body fluids and that’s why it’s always a good idea to use a CPR shield to keep body fluids away from the first responder’s mouth during rescue breathing performed on a stranger. For an intimate partner or a close family member, a CPR shield is not necessary unless the patient has an infectious disease, however, it can make CPR less intimate and more comfortable to perform. 

Some CPR breathing barriers can be cleaned and disinfected, while some are for one use only and should be disposed of safely after use. Make sure to read the product’s description carefully before using the CPR shield. 

Additional Tips

CPR face shields and disposable gloves are key in personal protective equipment in medical emergencies. If you don’t have a CPR face mask and need to perform CPR, then compressions only CPR is recommended. The same goes if you are not trained to give rescue breaths. Knowing how to perform CPR is important so that you can save the life of someone in danger. 

cpr shield
source: cdn11.bigcommerce.com

A trained first responder will know how to handle the situation and that’s why it’s important for everyone who works in certain positions, including nursing homes, clinics, schools, fire departments, police, lifeguards, etc., to undergo a CPR training course.

If you are a bystander, the least that is expected from you is to not abandon a non-breathing casualty and make sure to call the emergency services and inform them about your location. Time is of the essence and it’s important to follow the dispatcher’s advice and help the person in need until the emergency services arrive. However, no person should feel the need to put themselves at risk and should not be under pressure to do so.