A message is circulating social media that claims coughing during the onset of a heart attack can save your life.
TL:DR – The advice in the message is not recommended by any medical agency, including those that specialise in heart conditions. In fact, coughing during the onset of a heart condition such as a heart attack may be counterproductive and could even worsen a person’s condition, meaning spreading this advice is potentially dangerous. Coughing during certain types of cardiac arrhythmia can be beneficial, but this should only be performed by trained professionals or under appropriate medical supervision.
The below message (that has been spreading now for well over a decade) claims to offer potentially life-saving advice if one is in a situation where they are suffering from a suspected heart attack while alone. The message essentially claims that prolonged coughing can help a heart attack victim by allowing oxygen to reach the lungs and can help squeeze the heart which helps it regain its natural rhythm.
An example of the advice can be seen below –
I’VE READ THIS BEFORE BUT A GOOD REMINDER IN CASE YOU ARE HAVING A HEART ATTACK ALONE.
” Hi everyone, can you put a ❤
Not your typical forward…please read…
THIS IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH READ IT CAREFULLY & SHARE IT !!!!
This is from Dr. Geetha Krishnaswamy, Please give your 2 minutes and read this:
1. Let’s say it’s 7.25pm and you’re going home (alone of course) after an unusually hard day on the job.
2. You’re really tired, upset and frustrated.
3 Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up in to your jaw. You are only about five km from the hospital nearest your home.
4. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far.
5. You have been trained in CPR, but the guy who taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!!
10. A cardiologist says If everyone who gets this mail kindly sends it to 10 people, you can bet that we’ll save at least one life.
11. Rather than sending jokes, please… contribute by forwarding this mail which can save a person’s life.
Despite the claims in the advice, its instructions are not recommended by any relevant medical establishment. The vast majority of relevant field experts assert that coughing during a cardiac episode can potentially make a situation worse, or have little effect, and may deflect from the primary concern which should be to seek help immediately, either from a medical professional or someone who can contact one.
The American Heart Foundation says –
The American Heart Association does not endorse “cough CPR,” a coughing procedure widely publicized on the Internet. As noted in the 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care, “cough CPR” is not useful for unresponsive victims and should not be taught to lay rescuers.
And the British Heart Foundation says –
There is no medical evidence to support ‘cough CPR’, which suggests you can help yourself by coughing vigorously if you think you’re having a heart attack and are alone.
The ‘cough CPR’ myth has been circulating the internet for a while now, especially on social media sites such as Facebook. If you come across it, please avoid spreading it any further and consider letting the person who posted it know that there’s no truth in it.
Given that both entities are leaders in the field of cardiac conditions, ‘cough CPR’ isn’t something that should be shared across the Internet.
That is not to say that ‘cough CPR’ isn’t a real thing, nor that it should not be taught [by experts] to those deemed to have a high risk of suffering from a relevant cardiac condition. In certain (specific) cases, coughing can allow oxygen-enriched blood to reach the brain which can potentially save a life. The American Heart Association notes –
‘Cough’ CPR may be considered in settings such as the cardiac catheterization laboratory where patients are conscious and constantly monitored (for example, with an ECG machine). A nurse or physician is also present who can instruct and coach the patients to cough forcefully every one to three seconds during the initial seconds of a sudden arrhythmia.
The big however here, is that this should only be performed under appropriate medical supervision or by someone who has had the appropriate medical training. This way, the ‘cough CPR’ will only be performed in reaction to an applicable cardiac event, and performed in a manner which will help the sufferer. If the ‘cough CPR’ is performed to an inappropriate cardiac event or not performed correctly, the condition of the sufferer could become worse.
And this is why social media notices like this are definitely not advisable and another reason why we don’t recommend getting your medical advice from the Internet. The bottom line here is that this “how to survive a heart attack alone” advice should not be circulated, either offline or online. If you have any questions or concerns surrounding the subject, contact your doctor.