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Can You Use Pediatric/Child AED Pads on an Adult?

While it’s uncommon, there are circumstances when people find their AED to not have working adult pads. Typically this is because the adult pads have been used or expired. So, the question arises… In the situation where there are no adult AED pads, would it be acceptable to use child AED pads?

We will discuss the American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines and the difference between adult and child AED pads. Finally, we will present the arguments for and against using child pads on adult victims of sudden cardiac arrest. We do present a conclusive answer to this question. Read on to find out!

American Heart Association Guidelines

To begin, let’s discuss the AHA guidelines that speak to this topic. In all courses that cover cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), proper AED use is taught. The guidelines are fairly simple in that responders should first turn on and then follow the prompts from the AED.

The AED will usually give vocal prompts on where to place pads. Next, the AED will tell the responder to step back so it can analyze the heart rhythm. Finally, the AED will advise on whether or not you should continue CPR or deliver a shock to the patient. Depending on if the AED is automatic or semi-automatic, you may need to push a button to deliver the shock.

However, in this process, it is up to the user to discern whether or not to use adult or child pads. The AHA advises that children include anyone who has not experienced puberty, notated by breast development and hair growth. However, the AHA guidelines state that if there are no child pads, adult pads can be used on a child. The guidelines conversely say, “Do not use the child pads for an adult.”

At this point it’s important to note that any AHA instructor should only teach what is in the guidelines given by the AHA during an AHA course. AHA courses and materials are copyrighted and additional segments should not be added to the course. However, The AHA does permit adding content before or after class as long as it is remarked that the content is not from the AHA.

The Difference Between Adult and Child Pads

Various AED’s have different ways of functioning, however in most AED’s, the child pads essentially throttle the shock given to the victim. Typically, on child SCA victims, an AED puts out 50 Joules in pediatric mode. However, with adults pads, 150 Joules is the typical output from an AED. While adult pads can be used on children when no pediatric pads are available, it is generally accepted that pediatric AED pads are not useful on adults.

The AHA Basic Life Support (BLS) student manual reads “Child pads deliver a shock dose that is too low for an adult and will likely not be successful.”

The Argument For Using Child Pads on an Adult

Any experienced CPR instructor, will inevitably be asked ‘Can I use child/pediatric pads on an Adult CPR Victim?’ The most straightforward answer to this question should be that the AHA guidelines do not recommend this. However, instead of this, many make the assumption that ‘Child pads are better than no pads.’ The assumption is that, you might as well try. It’s unlikely that you are going to make a dead persons condition worse, right?

So, the question is, could 50 Joules be enough to change an adults heart rhythm? The short answer is probably not. However, isn’t something better than nothing? There’s always a chance anything could happen, but speaking on the science that is known- we would not recommend this path.

The Argument For NOT Using Child Pads on an Adult

When performing CPR, there is a big emphasis on minimizing hands off time with a victim. The AHA guidelines suggest an 80% Chest Compression Rate. This means that during the course of CPR, hands should be performing chest compressions 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time may be used for using an AED or delivering rescue breaths.

In the event you don’t have a functioning AED, the chest compression fraction should be hire than 80%. A responders job during CPR is first and foremost to keep blood circulating through the body. If you are spending time fiddling with an AED that is not properly equipped for your victim, then you are losing time where blood could be circulated. For every second without blood circulation, victims are losing brain and heart cells. With only a slim chance that an AED could be effective, you are putting the victim in a worse position.

The AHA BLS guidelines also tell us, “It is better to provide high-quality CPR than to attempt to shock and adult victim with child pads.”


The AHA guidelines does not advise using pediatric AED pads on adults. While some people may think it’s ‘worth a shot,’ the time lost trying could be used performing CPR and circulating the victim’s blood to vital organs.

Furthermore, while this question is worth discussing, it’s important to note that the circumstances this scenario may arise in are slim. The most popular AED’s on the market: Defibtech, Heartsine, and Zoll all come with just adult pads. AED’s are usually sold only with adult pads. You will have an option to also purchase pediatric or child pads as well. It is unlikely someone would have child/pediatric AED pads instead of adults.

Learn More: AED IP Ratings Explained

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AED Certification

Every AED owner should get AED certification. AED’s are becoming standard safety equipment in private and public buildings across the U.S. If you have a defibrillator or work at a place with one, it’s important to be familiar with how to use them. AED’s are very simple and easy to use, but being trained in how to use one can save precious seconds for victims of cardiac arrest.

What is Included in AED Certification?

AED Certification is typically a 2 hour class and includes CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training. The course will cover how to recognize sudden cardiac arrest, perform hands only CPR, and how to perform CPR with compressions and breaths.  AED training will also cover when to use an AED, how to follow the AED directions, and other considerations. AED training will teach the differences on using an AED for adults, children, and infants.

There is no age requirement for CPR & AED training. However, to receive a certification, students must be able to pass skill tests with their instructor. In most cases children ages 8 and up that are mature enough to attend a two hour course benefit from the training. However, the physical skills in CPR training can be difficult for anyone under the age of 12 to perform.

How Long Does AED Certification  Last?

The skills taught in AED training should be fairly simple to remember. However, both the AHA and Red Cross’s CPR and AED certifications expire after two years. If your workplace or licensure requires your certification be maintained, you will need to renew every two years. While this may be frustrating, studies have shown that “even healthcare professionals, who are required to renew CPR skill certification every 2 years, perform optimal chest compressions just 28% of the time without CPR quality feedback, and only improve to 50% with feedback.” (Citation: AHA Journal)

Can I take just AED Certification?

Currently, the AHA and Red Cross only provide AED certification to people who also take CPR certification. These skill sets go hand in hand with each skill being just as important. While an AED can provide a shock that may revive the heart, if it does not work, CPR skills are invaluable to keep blood flowing in the victims body and their vital organs working.

Can I get AED Certified Online?

The American Heart Association (AHA) does offer online CPR/AED training. However, this training is not complete until the student attends an in person skills session with the instructor. The AHA calls these classes ‘Heartcode’ and they give the same certification card that students get when they take the full class in person. After completing the online course students will get a partial completion certificate but it is not a certification card. To be fully certified in CPR and AED skills you must also attend an in person session with an instructor.

If you are a Healthcare Provider, looking to take Basic Life Support CPR & AED training online, you will want to purchase the AHA Heartcode BLS course. For people not in the medical field looking to take CPR/AED Certification, you would purchase the AHA Heartcode Heartsaver CPR/AED course. Once you have completed the AHA Heartcode course you can meet with a local AHA instructor to get fully checked off to receive certification.

Be aware, there are some companies that advertise online only AED training. Please note this is not generally accepted or recognized to meet AED certification requirements.

If I Have an AED, Do I Have to Have AED Certification?

AED’s are regulated by local state authorities. To find out what your state requires, read State Laws on Cardiac Arrest and Defibrillators. Generally states require at minimum:

  • Physician oversight of an AED
  • the AED be registered
  • Any potential AED users be certified in CPR and First Aid.
  • The AED be regularly maintained
  • EMS be activated upon use of an AED.

If you do not have AED Program Management, you should watch this video to learn more about the helpful service that helps maintain your compliance:

Where to Find AED Certification?

AED and CPR certification is widely available and generally easy to find throughout the U.S. You can search for accredited American Heart Association (AHA) and American Red Cross (ARC) instructors on Class Eagle. Class Eagle is a free health and safety instructor directory that connects students and instructors to help increase the amount of people with lifesaving training.

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Everything You Need To Know About Buying An AED

Public AED

We’re here to dive deep and answer all the questions that you have and the questions you don’t know you have! AED Source discusses everything you need to know about buying an AED for your workplace, business, group or training classes, including what to look for when purchasing an AED.

What is an AED? 

An automated external defibrillator is abbreviated and called an AED. Some people may call them just ‘defibrillators’ and that’s correct too but there are lots of different kinds of defibrillators used today.

Some people have implanted cardiac defibrillators that monitor their heart rate constantly and deliver a shock if needed. There are also wearable defibrillators that can be worn by people who are having their heart evaluated for risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

The most commonly known defibrillators are the ones in hospitals. In hospitals defibrillators are usually very large and operated manually with two hand paddles that are connected to a machine. Manual hospital crash cart defibrillators are what we see on TV most often. The main difference between hospital defibrillators and AED’s are that AED’s are automatic and do not require a medical professional to assess how large of a shock to give the victim or when to deliver the shock.

Public AED
Public AED in alarming cabinet stored with trauma kit, first aid kit, and CPR mask.

AED’s are very portable machines that are used in public settings and designed for use by anyone. AED’s are made to do all the work unlike manual defibrillators. Public AED’s will walk you through every step and assume no prior knowledge or experience with them. The only thing you have to remember to do is turn on the AED. Once you turn on the AED it will give you verbal directions of what to do. It will guide you to place pads and give visual diagrams that show proper pad placement. The voice instructions will tell you the next steps to complete and will inform you when to perform CPR. Most AED’s will give guidance on how to do CPR as well. These AED feature’s ensure that anyone can assist in an emergency.

Who can use an AED?

Anyone can use an AED. These machines are very safe and can do no harm. (Despite what you may have seen in movies) Some insurance policies or specific industries will require that people in their facility receive training on how to use an AED if they have one. However, regardless of training anyone can use an AED.

In advanced medical practice there is a term called ‘scope of care’ that implies you may only perform skills you are trained in. When it comes to using an AED, their use is within anyones scope regardless of training because they are designed to not need prior training.

What to look for when choosing an AED?

Some people purchasing an AED may have a specific reason. Some wish to travel with an AED and others want it for a private home, or public space. Depending on what you’re looking for there may be specific features to keep in mind.


The first thing to consider is an AED’s design. Most people want something very user friendly. There are some AED’s that excel at this and limit the number of directions the user has to follow. The Heartsine Samaritan AED would be an example of this. Other’s look for an AED that is designed to be easily spotted and identified like the electric yellow Zoll AED Plus.

Most AED’s come with ‘coaching’ that walks users through performing CPR and using the AED. However, if this is a feature you are looking for make sure to put it on your list.


Another consideration is the durability of the AED or its ability to withstand harsher environments. This would be important for people using an AED outdoors where the AED is exposed to dirt, sand, and water. All AED’s have an ‘IP’ (ingress protection) rating that is a universal measurement tool on the AED’s resilience to elements.

  • The first number, rates the level of protection the AED has against solids, like dirt and dust
  • The second number, rates the level of protection the AED has against moisture, like water

The higher each number is for an AED, the more protection the device has from these elements.

However, it’s important to note that IP Ratings have nothing to do with how well an AED can withstand a fall or stress from movement and vibration. For this, the Food and Drug Administration requires all AEDs to meet the same drop and shock standards.


When you choose an AED you will want to look at the accessories they require and how long these accessories last. Some AED’s have pads or batteries that are more expensive but last a longer time. Other AED’s have less expensive products but they need to be replaced as often as yearly at times. If your AED is in frequent use, such as one at a nursing home, you may opt to not worry about longevity of the pads and batteries but instead look for less expensive options to make the AED easier to upkeep regularly.


You will want to make sure you get an AED in the language you need. Some AED’s offer multiple language abilities and some have the ability to have other languages downloaded. Regardless, take note that the AED you purchase is in a language you speak.

What is normally included when buying a AED?

aed program mangement
AED Program Management
  • User Manual- All AED’s will come with a user manual that should be read and followed.
  • Cover or Case- AED’s are designed to be easily transported.
  • Battery- Most AED’s come with one battery but it’s recommended a spare battery be purchased as well.
  • Adult Pads- Most AED’s come with only adult pads. Some will also come with pediatric pads.
  • AED Source always includes one year free of AED program management with our AED’s.

How much do AEDs cost? 

AED’s pricing will varied based on the kind of AED as well as the accessories it comes with. Our AED’s range in price from $1,245 – $2,100 for the initial purchase. However, there is also an additional cost to maintain AED’s and make sure all parts are within their operation date. You can view our AED Comparison Chart to see the 8-year life cost of an AED with pads and batteries.

For an example, the most affordable AED is the Defibtech Lifeline and has an initial purchase price of $1,245 and an 8 year lifetime cost of $2,074. This AED is ever popular with rescue squads and fire departments because of it’s price and simple functionality.

Our recommended AED’s?

The Heartsine Samaritan Pad 350 AED

Our favorite AED is the Heartsine Samaritan. This AED is the MVP. It has a low cost upfront and is oh so easy to maintain. Instead of having to purchase separate batteries and pads for this AED at various times, you simply have to replace the ‘Pad-pak’ (combo battery/pads) every four years. Additionally, the Heartsine Samaritan has one of the smallest footprints making it easy to transport.

The Cardiac Science Powerheart G5 AED

The Cardiac Science Powerheart G5 AED is one of the most high tech AED’s. This AED lives its best life when used by people with advanced medical training. While the AED can still be easily used by anyone the features it comes with are only going to be useful to trained medical responders.

The Physio Control LIFEPAK CR2

The Physio Control LIFEPAK is the most requested AED by schools and churches. This AED has dual language functionality that makes it popular in these environments that accommodate both Spanish and English speakers.  This AED also has unique technology that allows the user to continue CPR compressions while the AED analyzes the heart rhythm. Most AED’s don’t have this capability and the victim has several seconds of time lost where they could be receiving CPR to circulate oxygen through their body.

Is AED training required to use an AED?

We discuss this in detail in our article ‘Do You Need AED Training to Use an AED?’ While AED training is not required to use an AED, it is prudent to have people trained in using an AED so it can be quickly and efficiently used in the event of an emergency. It’s hard to imagine many scenarios worse than one where life saving equipment was available and not used. To find AED training in your area, we suggest using the Class Eagle Health & Safety Instructor Directory. On the directory you can find instructors that teach CPR & AED courses to suit your needs whether or not you are looking for basic AED training or advanced basic life support.

How do you install an automated external defibrillator?

While it is not necessary to install an AED, some places will choose to mount them or put them in a cabinet for protection or visibility. Installing these cabinets is usually relatively easy and only takes 2 screws. You will want to select a place that is easily accessible and visible. It’s important to install signage with the AED to let people know an AED is there. If the building you are installing an AED in has a safety team, you will want to discuss this with them and agree on the right position. For example, many churches or schools will think the entrance way is the best place to install an AED at first, but upon consideration they opt for a place that is more central in their buildings.

How much does an AED cost to maintain?

The cost of maintaining and AED varies on the AED and how often you use it. If you do not use an AED, there is still a cost to maintain it as the battery and pads will eventually expire. You will need to purchase the same brand of battery or pads that matches your AED for the AED to be functional. Please view our AED Comparison Chart to see the cost of accessories and cost to maintain over time.

What is the best AED for schools?

Every school should have an AED. While we often think of sudden cardiac arrest being more common in adults, it can also happen in children. Conversely, when children go into sudden cardiac arrest their chance for survival is so much greater with an AED. AED Source offers a handful of AED’s and we normally recommend the Heartsine Samaritan Pad 350 or the Physio Control Lifepak. We’d love to talk with you about what accessories you may need for your location as well.

Buying an AED: Final Thoughts

You now know enough about AED’s to read more about individual AED’s and compare them to each other. You can spend days, weeks, and months researching AED’s but you can also trust our selection at the AED Source. We sell more than one brand because we know everyones situation is different, however we offer a limited selection because we believe in the products we sell and only want to offer the best solutions to our communities.

Learn more about AED Program Management and how to make owning an AED simple: