Can coughing during the onset of heart attack symptoms while alone save your life, as a common internet helpful hint suggests?
“Cough CPR” is not recommended.
Let’s first look at one of the more recent incarnations of this shared story. The following helpful hint was circulated heavily on Facebook in July 2012.
HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE
Let’s say it’s 6.15pm and you’re going home (alone of course),
after an unusually hard day on the job. You’re really tired, upset and frustrated. Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far. You have been trained in CPR, but the guy that taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself..!!
NOW HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE..
Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.
However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously.
A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.
A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.
Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating.
The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.
Rather than sharing jokes please.. contribute by Sharing this which can save a person’s life!!!!
An even older version of the “cough CPR” hint read:
HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE
Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, this article seemed in order. Without help the person whose heart stops beating properly and who begins to feel Faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness. However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest. A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again. Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating.
The concept of cough CPR appeared in a 1976 reported entitled, “Cough-Induced Cardiac Compression
Self-administered Form of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.” The technique did not gain much public attention until the suggested benefits were circulated via email in the late 1990s. The idea was further bolstered when it was presented in 2003 by Polish cardiologist Dr. Tadeusz Petelenz, who recommended it at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in 2003. He referenced his 1998 study entitled, “Self-administered cough cardiopulmonary resuscitation (c-CPR) in patients threatened by MAS events of cardiovascular origin.”
Petelenz presented his results of a study involving 115 patients who had fainted or nearly fainted due to heart-related problems. In 365 instances in which the patients felt they would faint, the symptoms subsided in 292 cases and only 73 cases required medical attention.
Not everyone was convinced by the findings. Karolinska Institute professor of cardiology Dr. Marten Rosenquist called the idea “interesting” but pointed out that there had been no evidence that Petelenz’s patients actually had arrhythmias during the study. Leo Bossaert of the European Resuscitation Council told WebMD “We don’t know if these patients had true cardiac arrest.”
Since the publicity of the 2003 presentation, this technique has been a mainstay of internet helpful hints via email and social media.
What the Experts Say
Despite being championed by Dr. Petelenz, cough CPR has been widely dismissed or ignored by medical organizations.
- American Heart Association. In its Warning Signs of a Heart Attack article, the AHA recommends calling 911 and getting medical treatment. It does not mention cough CPR. The organization also issued a statement about this procedure, noting, “The American Heart Association does not endorse ‘cough CPR,’ a coughing procedure widely publicized on the Internet.” It is further stated, “”Cough CPR” should not be taught in lay-rescuer CPR courses because it is generally not useful in the prehospital setting.”
- Harvard Health. Some sources recommended taking 160-325 mg of aspirin upon onset of heart attack symptoms – after calling 911. A Harvard Health article from 2005 found that chewing an aspirin will work faster than swallowing it. It does not mention coughing.
- Mayo Clinic. Its recommendations for heart attack symptoms include. Call 911, take nitroglycerin if prescribed, take aspirin, if recommended. Nowhere is coughing mentioned.
- Dr Daniel Kulick. In an “Ask the Experts” article on MedicineNet, Dr. Kulick responds to a question about cough CPR in which he notes that it is a “poorly studied procedure with limited potential for clinical application.” He states that the best strategy is detecting early warning signs and calling 911.
- RTSO. UK-based Rescue & Safety Training Organisation writes, “There is no scientific evidence that proves the prevention of total cardiac arrest due to increased blood pressure…this technique during a heart attack may worsen myocardial ischemia and infarction since coughing and breath holding prevents inhalation, thus reducing the supply of oxygen.”
- HPMC Occupational Medical Services. This Hanford, Washington-based occupational medical website refers to cough CPR as an “urban myth.” It notes that people with “atrial (not ventricular) arrhythmias which are benign and not usually occurring during a heart attack sometimes are able to break the abnormal rhythm by coughing.”
- Resuscitation Council (UK). In its “Statement on Cough CPR” the Resuscitation Council summarizes, “The BLS/AED Subcommittee knows of no evidence that, even if a lone patient knew that cardiac arrest had occurred, he or she would be able to maintain sufficient circulation to allow activity, let alone driving to the hospital.”
Symptoms of Heart Attack
Here are Heart Attack Symptoms, as listed by the Mayo Clinic
- Pressure, a feeling of fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
- Pain extending beyond your chest to your shoulder, arm, back, or even to your teeth and jaw
- Increasing episodes of chest pain
- Prolonged pain in the upper abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Impending sense of doom
- Nausea and vomiting
Additional, or different, heart attack signs and symptoms in women may include:
- Heartburn or abdominal pain
- Clammy skin
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual or unexplained fatigue
Cough CPR is not recommended by any major heart organization or medical entity. If you think you’re having a heart attack, get medical attention immediately, and consider chewing an aspirin while you wait for their arrival, or while someone drives you to the hospital.
Updated November 24, 2015
Originally published July 2012