Knowing how to use an AED is essential.

Q: My son's basketball coach just taught the entire team how to use an automated external defibrillator. How important is it that my child is familiar with an AED?

A: Sudden cardiac arrest happens when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops pumping blood, which stops blood flow to the brain and other organs. While many people think of young athletes when they think of SCA, it also can affect healthy children and teens who may not participate in organized athletic activity. SCA can happen to anyone at any time, so knowing how to use an AED is essential for the survival of someone experiencing it.

Students, teachers, parents, coaches and other caregivers should know where an AED is located and how to use it. Symptoms experiencedduring exercise,such as chest pain, excessive shortness of breath and palpitations, could suggest potential illnesses that could lead to SCA. The most concerning symptom is fainting during or immediately after activity.

If someone is experiencing SCA, cardiologists recommend the following action plan:

Call 911, report symptoms to the dispatcher and send someone to get an AED if possible. Immediately begin CPR. Follow the AED prompts and use the device as soon as possible, ideally within three to five minutes to have the best success in restoring proper heart rhythm.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health.

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Naomi Kertesz, M.D., is a cardiologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.