There has been an ‘article’ circulating on the Internet lately, primarily on email and social media sites such as Facebook, that instructs a person to cough during a heart attack to save their life. Is this information true? The article certainly looks convincing, but sadly (and dangerously) it is incorrect.
The article, which differs slightly in several versions, basically says that if a person is suffering a heart attack alone, timing a deep cough can prolong consciousness and you can ‘ride out’ the heart attack. This seems like great, potentially life-saving advice to the casual reader. The bottom of the article is generally credited to a hospital or doctor, adding even more to its validity.
However, according to the reputable myth-debunking website Snopes, this information is not only untrue, but it could cause even more damage to a person having a heart attack. Cough CPR is an actual technique used around the world, but by trained medical professionals who know exactly when and how to use it. If used incorrectly, cough CPR could cause even more damage, and could turn a mild cardiac event into a fatal cardiac arrest.
So what should you do if you’re alone and suffer a heart attack? Call 911 immediately, then chew aspirin until help arrives. If you have aspirin on hand as emergency medicine, make sure the bottle is open and the cotton is removed. That last thing you want to be doing during a heart attack is fumbling with the seal on an aspirin bottle.
As with any health information propagated online, it never hurts to get a second opinion. Running a piece of information by Snopes, or by your own doctor, is a great way to get the facts straight. It could save your life.