I have come across some article circulating all over the internet (too many times) about how people can help themselves if they are suffering a heart attack. The technique: Coughing and deep breathing every two seconds otherwise known as Self CPR.
The article has started spreading again lately especially as news of the autopsy report on Stephen Keshi’s death stated he died of cardiac arrest plus the death of another former Nigerian coach Shuaibu Amodu who had complained of chest pain following a few days later.
First and foremost, let us be clear on certain things. In order to help understand whether the above-mentioned technique will work or even help a casualty, we need to understand what a heart attack is, how a cardiac arrest occurs and what exactly is CPR.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A HEART ATTACK
A heart attack also called a myocardial infarction which literally means “tissue death in the heart” is due to a partial or total blockage in one of the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood.
This leads to the muscle suffering an infarction (death) due to lack of oxygen and results in an immediate impairment in cardiac function. The blockage is usually caused by a blood clot within the coronary arteries (thrombosis) and requires immediate attention.
WHAT IS CARDIAC ARREST?
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating. A heart attack if not taken care of may lead to cardiac arrest. However, there are many other causes; excessive blood loss, collapsed lung, pulmonary embolism (a condition in which blood clots form in the lungs), electrocution et cetera.
Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in itself is NOT a definitive lifesaving treatment for cardiac arrest, and can only keep the blood pumping around the body until specialised help is available.
A more effective treatment is defibrillation (electric shocks that stimulate the heart back to a normal rhythm) and even this may not help in all cases e.g. arrest due to Mass pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs) or hyper/hypokalaemia.
WHAT IS CPR?
CPR or Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation is a sequence of chest compressions and rescue breaths given to a casualty who has STOPPED breathing. If a person stops breathing, they have only about 4 to 6 minutes before the lack of oxygen results in brain damage.
CPR ensures that the person continues to get oxygen (rescue breaths) and it is pumped around the body (chest compressions).
Now, to the question.
If you’re alone and you think you’re having a heart attack, you need a prompt emergency response. Remember, CPR is only given to unconscious victims I.e. NOT breathing. If you’re still breathing, you do NOT need CPR.
Your priorities are to get immediate medical attention, administer your medication (if you have one) and keep your heart at peace.
Call emergency services or call/get a friend to help. Sit in a half-reclining position and lay absolutely still. Try to breathe easy and stay calm while you await an emergency response.
The heart is in crisis and is struggling to maintain cardiac output. To exert further pressure on it would be speeding up the transition to arrest.
There is no evidence to support cough-CPR and you do NOT administer CPR to a conscious or breathing casualty.
What you don’t know may actually be killing you!
Being informed is the first step to first aid.
Be educated, be enlightened, be aware!!
Akinfosile Dare Joseph, OSH Professional | First Aid Instructor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @d4humanity.
Mobile: +234 (0) 802 210 2172