During a sudden cardiac arrest, an AED becomes a life-saving tool for adults and also children. Sudden cardiac arrest is a disruption in the heart's normal rhythm and it can happen at any age, including to kids. When a child’s heart rhythm and beat become abnormal, they can become unconscious or unresponsive. Acting as quickly as possible in a sudden cardiac arrest is the key to saving a child’s life in this potentially fatal event. 

Many public areas like schools, pools, and grocery stores have an AED and they are typically stocked with both adult and children's electrode pads. Pediatric AED electrode pads are one-time use and expire over time. They can be used on both children and adults but placement and voltage levels may vary. AEDs can detect and analyze the heart rhythm of anyone, regardless of age. The AED will give voice prompts so you can follow along to give a child the best chance of survival. 

When to use Pediatric AED Pads

Many people only associate sudden cardiac arrest with adults, but young adults, children, and infants can all become victims of a cardiac emergency. Although some may think it's a rare occurrence, this tragic event claims the lives of approximately 7,000 children a year in the United States alone. This is why it is vital to have the proper equipment to treat a child suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. 

Reasons a child may need AED 

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
  • Birth defects 
  • Commotio Cordis (a strong blow to the chest) 

Pediatric AED Pads Weight & Age

Child AED pads should only be used for children no older than 8 years old and weighing no more than 55 pounds. If you find an unresponsive child and are unsure what age they are, you may have some wiggle room if they are little. If there are signs of puberty you should be using adult pads on the child. 

Recognizing AED Pads for Children 

To identify pediatric electrode pads check the package, which is typically a different color and has depictions of infants and small children. There may also be a teddy bear or other child-friendly icons on the packaging. If the AED has a child or infant key it will likely have images of the child and depictions showing how to place the electrode pads and insert the key. Although time is always of the essence, it is critical to identify that the AED pads are the correct pediatric electrode pads for children

Pediatric Defibrillation Joules

Based on the AED model, infant or child mode can either be selected with a button or chosen by inserting the child key or smart electrode pad. Once the infant/child mode has been activated the AED will decrease the voltage level and provide alternate instructions on how to place electrode pads on children. Typically an AED begins with 150 to 200 joules of electricity during a shock and can increase up to 360 joules. When using the children's pediatrics setting, an AED only delivers about 50 joules, which is more suitable for small children.

Anteroposterior AED Pad Placement Child Under 8

The placement of electrode pads for kids differs from adult pad placement. In both situations, the scene needs to be safe and the electrode pads need to be attached to bare skin in order to connect for the ability to detect and analyze the heart rhythm. To ensure proper AED pad placement for a child under the age of 8 follow the steps below. 

  1. First, remove the child's clothes and place them on a firm flat surface
  2. Place the first electrode pad in the center of the child's chest 
  3. Place the second electrode pad in the upper center of the child's back
  4. Ensure the two pads are not touching

Follow the instructions given by the AED until an EMS responder arrives.

Can you use Adult AED Pads on a Child?

If a sudden cardiac emergency occurs but the pediatric pads are unavailable and there are no other options, adult pads can be used on children and infants. The pads must be placed in the correct child position with one pad in the center of the chest and one pad in the center of the back - - be sure the pads do not touch. 

Common reasons adult AED pads are used on children 

  • If no pediatric pads are on the scene
  • If the pediatric electrode pads have expired
  • Using an AED that depends on the same electrode pads for both adults and children ( don't forget to change the mode on the AED to the child first) 

If pediatric pads are unavailable check if you can use the adult pads while still changing the device into pediatric mode. Do not cut or alter electrode pads in order to make them fit. 

Can You Use Child AED Pads on Adults?

Pediatric pads adjust the energy level on the AED to a more suitable voltage level for children. Infant electrode pads are designed for children under the age of 8 and it is not recommended to place pediatric AED pads on an adult as the energy level will not be successful on an adult. Adult electrode pads also differ in the fact they are much stickier than children's AED pads to account for chest hair, so the less sticky children's pads may not be able to fully stick and connect to the patient. Without the electrode pads, the AED would not be able to analyze and detect the heart's rhythm. Overall, pediatric electrode pads should not be used on adults unless there are no other options. A good samaritan bystander should start CPR and call 911.

Pediatric Defibrillation Pads

The main difference between adult and children electrode pads is the energy level produced and how they are placed. Typically an AED will send 150 joules to an adult patient and only 50 joules to a child. Always keep a pair of adult electrode pads and pediatric electrode pads handy in your AED for any sudden cardiac emergencies. The most important aspect is speed, so it is vital to get to an AED and help a child as quickly as possible while waiting for EMS responders to arrive.