Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting 1,000 people every day including children and teens. Of these individuals, only 10% survive. Those who do make it invariably received immediate bystander CPR and treatment with an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Now that most of us are hunkered down at home because of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to be prepared to respond effectively to sudden cardiac arrest. As it is, 70% of cardiac arrests occur in home settings. With more people working from home and home-schooling, chances are the incidence of cardiac arrests in homes will increase. In fact, chilling numbers from Italy point to a 58% increase in the number of at-home cardiac arrests in the first 40 days of the pandemic, compared with the same period last year.
Thankfully, more and more workplaces and schools have AEDs. Still, this will not help those following stay-at-home orders. And, as we envision the post-COVID era, we foresee that more workplaces and schools could determine that remote working and learning is a cost-effective option for many employees and students—making AEDs in the home even more important.
Before COVID-19, the average EMS response time in urban areas was 11 minutes. Now, EMS agencies are more taxed than ever, which means a longer wait for a defibrillator in the event of a cardiac arrest. If bystanders call 911, give CPR and use AEDs before EMS arrival, more victims will survive. In fact, defibrillation within 4-5 minutes increases the survival rate from 10% to 74%.
While we should certainly be prepared with hand sanitizer, masks and other safety precautions, we can't forget about the life-saving measures of CPR and AEDs. For many households, having an AED at home just makes sense.
- Mary M. Newman, MS
For information on getting an AED for your home, check out the AED Readiness Project.