Cough CPR – If I’m having a Heart Attack, should I try ‘Cough CPR?’

If you’re on Facebook or any social media for that matter, you’ve probably seen the advice of Cough CPR. ‘HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE’ (in all caps – as the best medical advice on the internet often is…). At the request of the post, you may have even shared it…

It suggests that coughing vigorously and rhythmically will allow the person to remain conscious, keep blood circulating and change the rhythm of the heart.

So, the question is – does Cough CPR work? Can you actually survive a heart attack by coughing?

Cough CPR

The short answer is no. You can’t stop a heart attack by coughing.

A heart attack is when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted – usually due to a blood clot. A heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest – where the heart stops pumping blood around the body. As a result, the person becomes unconscious, stops breathing and without immediate CPR – they’ll die.

Cardiac arrest usually causes loss of consciousness within seconds, without warning. Even if a person somehow suspected they were about to go into cardiac arrest it’s highly unlikely that coughing would help. The majority of people having a heart attack won’t suffer cardiac arrest and by coughing, there’s a chance that their condition could be made worse. The correct advice for people not trained in First Aid is to call 999 and take advice from the handler.

The ‘Cough CPR’ myth has been around for a while now. If you see it – please avoid spreading it further and feel free to tell the person talking about it that there’s no truth in it.

More information about high-quality, scientific, resuscitation guidelines can be found on The Resuscitation Council (UK) website.

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