Heart Attack – First Aid

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is a serious medical emergency where there is a sudden obstruction of the blood supply to the heart. This may be caused by a blood clot in a coronary artery and lack of blood to the heart can seriously damage the heart muscle. The main risk is that the heart will stop beating.

How do I recognise a heart attack?

  • Not all people experience chest pain whilst having a heart attack. Any pain experienced can vary between severe pain and mild pain. It’s not the level of pain that’s important, but the combination of signs and symptoms below:
  • Persistent, vice-like central chest pain, which may spread to the jaw and down one or both arms.
  • Discomfort high in the abdomen (sometimes feels like severe indigestion).
  • Unlike angina, the pain does not ease when the casualty rests.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Collapse (often without warning).
  • Sudden faintness or dizziness.
  • Casualty feels a sudden sense of ‘impending doom’.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Ashen skin and blueness of the lips.
  • ‘Air hunger’ – the casualty gasps for air.

What do I do if I suspect someone’s having a heart attack?

  • Reassure the casualty.
  • Make the casualty as comfortable as possible to ease the strain on their heart. The ‘W’ position can help: help them into a half sitting position, with their head and shoulders supported and knees bent. Place a cushion or similar under their bent knees if possible.
  • Ask the casualty whether they have angina and whether they have any medication for it.
  • If the casualty has medication for angina, such as a spray, encourage them to use it. Help them if necessary.

If the pain persists or returns, continue to suspect a heart attack.

  • Call 999 or 112 and tell ambulance control you suspect a heart attack.
  • If the casualty is 16 or older and isn’t allergic to aspirin, assist them to take one full dose aspirin tablet (300mg) to chew slowly.
  • Encourage the casualty to rest.
  • Stay calm, reassure the casualty and monitor and record their vital signs whilst waiting for medical help to arrive.


Learn more about heart attack here:



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