The “Cough CPR” post is doing the rounds on social media again but is it true or is it a myth?
Well, the answer is that it is a myth and it is potentially very dangerous.
The post goes something like this…
“It’s 7.25pm and you are driving home alone. You’re tired and suddenly you start experiencing severe chest pain the travels down your left arm and up into your jaw. You’re about 5 miles from the nearest hospital but you don’t think you will be able to make it that far. You have been trained in CPR but the trainer never told you how to do it on yourself. You can help yourself by repeatedly coughing very vigorously.”
There is a general misunderstanding in the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest.
A heart attack is caused by a blockage resulting in restricted blood flow, the heart is still pumping, the patient is conscious and therefore does not require CPR. However, they do need urgent medical attention.
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectantly stops pumping blood around the body due to an electrical problem. So the heart has either stopped beating altogether or it is in an abnormal rhythm which cannot pump blood around the body. The patient is unconscious and as well as needing immediate medical attention, they need immediate effective CPR.
Getting someone who is having a heart attack to cough vigorously (which is what the social media post suggests they do) will put the heart under further stress and potentially put them into cardiac arrest.
If you suspect that you are having a heart attack, phone 999 immediately and explain your symptoms. Give your location – if you are not sure of that, use the What3words app. Whilst waiting for the ambulance sit down and don’t do anything that will make your heart have to work harder. If you have chewable or dispersible aspirin, take it (provided that you aren’t allergic to it or have ever been told by your doctor not to take aspirin)
In order for a person to perform Cough CPR they would have to be conscious but if they actually need CPR, they would be in cardiac arrest, therefore unconscious and unable to cough.
If you see one of the Cough CPR posts please avoid spreading it any further and consider letting the person who posted it know that there’s no truth in it.