Is it safe to use an AED on children and infants?

The importance of using AEDs on children and infants: Ensuring safety and best practices

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a critical emergency that can occur at any age, including in children and infants. Understanding Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in these sensitive cases is paramount for saving lives. In this blog, Dr Richard Dune delves into the safety, legislation, and best practices surrounding using AEDs on young patients, equipping readers with essential knowledge and confidence in emergencies.

Key facts and statistics

  • Sudden cardiac arrest in children, though rare, represents a significant risk with potentially devastating outcomes. According to the British Heart Foundation, approximately 12 young people aged 35 and under die each week in the UK from undiagnosed heart conditions, many of which could lead to SCA.
  • The Resuscitation Council (UK) highlights that survival rates from SCA decrease by 10% for every minute without defibrillation. Early use of an AED, even in children and infants, can significantly improve survival rates.

Key definitions

  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED) - A portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm.
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) - A condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, leading to blood cessation to the brain and other vital organs.

Relevant legislation and regulations

  • Health and Safety (First-aid) Regulations 1981 - Requires employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities, and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. This includes the provision of AEDs where necessary.
  • Resuscitation to 2025 strategy for England - This strategy emphasises the importance of public access to defibrillation, including tailored approaches to managing paediatric cases.

Best practices

  • Training - Ensure that potential rescuers, including school staff and child care settings, are trained in paediatric first aid and CPR techniques, including AEDs.
  • Paediatric pads and devices - When available, use paediatric pads for children under 8 years or weighing less than 25kg. If paediatric pads are unavailable, it is generally considered safe to use adult pads, placing one in the middle of the child’s chest and the other on the back.
  • Clear and calm operation - Most AEDs provide clear, calm instructions through a voice prompt system, guiding the rescuer through the process, which is crucial in high-stress situations.


  • Regular training and refreshers - Encourage or mandate regular first aid training sessions for staff and caregivers to keep their skills sharp and their knowledge current.
  • Community awareness programs - Initiate or participate in programs that aim to increase public awareness about the importance and safety of using AEDs on children.
  • Equipment accessibility - Ensure easy accessibility of AEDs in schools, sports facilities, and other areas where children are present.


While daunting, using AEDs on children and infants is a critical skill that can save lives in the direst circumstances. By staying informed about the latest legislation and adhering to best practices, you can ensure your environment is prepared to respond effectively to these emergencies. Regular training and community awareness can transform apprehension into competent and timely action.

Click here to learn more about our paediatric first aid courses and how you can be a lifesaver in emergencies. Equip yourself, your organisation, or your community with the knowledge and skills to act confidently and promptly in critical situations. Empower yourself today to make a difference tomorrow.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always seek professional medical assistance in emergency situations.

About the author

Dr Richard Dune

With over 20 years of experience, Richard blends a rich background in NHS, the private sector, academia, and research settings. His forte lies in clinical R&D, advancing healthcare tech, workforce development and governance. His leadership ensures regulatory compliance and innovation align seamlessly.

The importance of using AEDs on children and infants - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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