Although the incidents of cardiac arrest in children are as low as 10 per year in the UK, they can occur. Defibrillators can be used on children; however, the advice differs depending on the child’s age and weight.
You can use a defibrillator on children who weigh more than 25kg (typically around the age of 8) in the same way that you would use it on an adult. The power of the electric shock does not need to be altered from the usual adult level. Therefore, there is no need for any additional child electrode pads or child operating mode to be present to treat this age group.
Defibrillators can be used on children under the age of 8, although if possible a lower level of electric shock designed for children (typically 50-75 joules) should be administered. Many defibrillators allow the user to alter the level of shock depending on whether a child or adult is the casualty. Some AEDs regulate the level of shock through the use of different paediatric electrode pads and some allow the user to switch between ‘child’ and ‘adult’ modes.
The UK Resuscitation Council states1 that if no child-specific system or adjustable machine is available, adult AED/pads can be used. If it is necessary to use an AED with adult settings on a child, the pads should be placed one on the front of the chest and one on the back.
There is not a lot of evidence about the use of defibrillators on children less than one year of age. The Resuscitation Council UK recommends that it is likely to be better to use an AED on a baby who is not breathing than to not use one at all. If possible a reduced paediatric shock level should be used as detailed above.
It is safe to use a defibrillator on someone who is pregnant. They can be used in the same way as with a non-pregnant individual.