In the United States, almost 50 percent of people who experience a heart attack wait for more than two hours before seeking help. As a result, each year approximately 250,000 people die of a heart attack before they are even able to reach a hospital.
Though chest pain isn’t always linked with heart attack, it is important to know first aid for chest pain, just in case. Knowing the causes of chest pain as well as chest pain first aid can save lives.
Knowing the Cause of Chest Pain
First aid for chest pain can save lives, especially if the pain is caused by a heart attack. However, since chest pain can be caused by a number of non-life-threatening conditions, including indigestion and pulled muscles, how do you know when first aid is required?
Chest pain that is linked to a heart attack is often easily ignored or attributed to another factor, since heart attack chest pain isn’t always sudden or intense, as many expect it to be. In fact, chest pain caused by heart attack can occur days or even weeks before the actual attack.
In general, chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes should be treated as a medical emergency. Remember, it is better to have chest pain checked out than to wait and suffer permanent heart damage or even death.
The symptoms of a heart attack include the following:
- chest pain lasting for more than two minutes that is often described as uncomfortable pressure, fullness and/or squeezing
- chest pain that is accompanied by anxiety
- chest pain that disappears after rest but returns with exertion
- chest pain the radiates to the shoulders, neck and/or arms (especially the left arm).
Anyone who is exhibiting any of the above symptoms for more than 10 or 15 minutes while at rest should seek medical attentions. It is important to note, however, that many people who have heart attacks exhibit no symptoms. When in doubt, call 911.
Heart Attack First Aid
If you or someone near you appears to be having a heart attack, you should first call 911 for emergency medical treatment. If you are the person experiencing chest pain and are unable to call for an ambulance, have someone drive you to the hospital. Only drive yourself to the hospital as a last resort. You risk injuring yourself or others if you are driving and your symptoms suddenly worsen.
After calling 911, follow these steps:
- If you are inside, open any windows in the room, if possible, to allow fresh air to enter.
- Sit down and loosen any tight clothing on the patient.
- If a doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin to the chest pain victim, help him take it as directed. However, do not allow the person to take any medication that has not been prescribed specifically to him.
- If the person who is having the chest pain is unconscious, ask the dispatcher on 911 if you should begin CPR. If you are not trained in CPR, the dispatcher will be able to walk you through the steps until medical help arrives.
First Aid for Pulmonary Embolism
In addition to heart attack, people suffering from pulmonary embolism will require emergency medical treatment. Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot breaks loose from its original location, travels through the blood stream and lodges in an artery in the lung.
Possible signs of pulmonary embolism include:
- chest pain that is often accompanied by shortness of breath
- cough that produces blood-streaked sputum
- rapid heart rate
- sudden, sharp chest pain that starts or worsens after taking a deep breath or coughing
If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above-listed symptoms, call 911 immediately and ask for emergency medical assistance. While waiting for the ambulance, try to remain calm.
Anrev (n.d.). First Aid for Chest Pain. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from the HubPages Web site: http://hubpages.com/hub/First_Aid_for_Chest_Pain.
Mayo Clinic Staff (January 9, 2006). Chest pain: First aid. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-chest-pain/FA00036.
Medi-Smart (1999-2006). Heart Attack Statistics. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from the Medi-Samrt.com Web site: http://medi-smart.com/stats.htm.