Chest Pain Cause Medical Help Call 911

Each year, more than 250,000 people in the United States experiencing chest pain wait too long to seek emergency medical help and die before they even make it to the hospital. In order to prevent serious heart damage or even death, it is important for people to understand the causes of chest pain so they can determine if a 911 call is necessary.

Chest Pain Causes: Heart Attack

Calling 911 for chest pain can save lives, especially if the pain is caused by a life-threatening condition, such as a heart attack. However, since chest pain can be caused by non-life-threatening conditions, including indigestion, pinched nerves and pulled muscles, how do you know when a 911 call is required?

Many people who are having a heart attack ignore their chest pain or attribute it to another factor, since heart attack chest pain isn’t always sudden or intense, as many expect it to be. In fact, chest pain that is caused by heart attack can occur hours, 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 (pressure, fullness and/or squeezing) that lasts for more than two minutes
  • 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 don’t feel chest pain or exhibit no heart attack symptoms. When in doubt, always call 911.

After Calling 911 for Heart Attack

After calling 911 and while waiting for the ambulance, try to remain calm. Have the chest pain victim rest and loosen any tight clothing. Also, if the person has been prescribed nitroglycerin by his doctor, help him take the medication as directed. However, never allow someone to take medication not prescribed to him.

If the person looses consciousness while waiting for the ambulance, ask the 911 dispatcher if you should begin CPR. Even if you don’t know how to perform CPR, the dispatcher can assist you and walk you through the procedure until medical help arrives.

When You Can’t Call 911

If you are experiencing chest pain that you think is being caused by a heart attack or other serious condition and are unable to call 911, have someone drive you to a hospital. Only drive yourself to the hospital as a last resort. You could endanger yourself and others if your symptoms worsen while you are driving.

911 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:

  • anxiety
  • 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
  • sweating.

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.

When It’s Probably Safe to Watch and Wait

If you are experiencing chest pain, it is always best to call 911 when in doubt. That being stated, there are certain times when it is probably OK to provide self-care rather than call 911.

For instance, if you have been diagnosed as having angina and are experiencing chest pain, take your angina medication and wait for a few minutes to see if your symptoms resolves. If your pain continues, call 911.

Also, if you have a history of heartburn and experience a burning sensation behind your breastbone after eating a large meal or certain trigger foods, you are likely not experiencing a heart attack. Chest pain linked with heartburn is sometimes accompanied by a sour taste and often worsens if you bend forward or lie down.

If you have a history of heartburn and experience chest pain that feels like heartburn, take an antacid and see if your symptoms improve.

If, however, you experience any chest pain that causes you concern, it is best to call 911. Even if your condition is not life-threatening, a trip to the hospital can pinpoint your chest pain cause and will ease your mind.


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