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How Do I Give First Aid for a Heart Attack?

Administering first aid for a heart attack promptly can save lives. Begin by calling emergency services. Then, ensure the person is in a comfortable position, preferably seated with knees raised to ease heart strain. If they're conscious, offer aspirin to chew slowly. Remember, quick action is key. How can you further prepare to handle such critical situations? Continue reading to learn more.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

First aid for a heart attack can help improve a victim's chance of survival. By taking fast, appropriate action, a victim suffering from a heart attack may be more likely to survive until paramedics arrive, and get to medical facilities faster. Some of the steps required in first aid for a heart attack include summoning emergency care, looking for the symptoms of cardiac arrest, helping the victim to relax until help arrives, and administering any medications the patient needs.

The first step in first aid for a heart attack is calling an ambulance, or getting the patient to a nearby emergency room immediately. While not all suspected heart attacks turn out to be the real thing, even a suspicion that cardiac arrest may be occurring warrants urgent medical attention. Emergency medical technicians are much better prepared to handle a patient in cardiac arrest than friends or family members, however well intentioned. Calling an ambulance should be done at the first sign of a heart attack, before any other action is taken.

The anatomy of a heart attack.
The anatomy of a heart attack.

Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack can help determine steps to be taken while waiting for help to arrive. If the patient is able to speak, ask him or her what type of pain is occurring, if he or she has any known heart problems, and if he or she has recently experienced chest pain while exercising. If the patient is having difficulty speaking, make sure that he or she is not choking on anything and is breathing normally. If the patient falls unconscious, administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and chest compressions. Call emergency dispatchers and ask for instructions on how to perform these steps if necessary.

First aid may improve a heart attack victim's chance of survival.
First aid may improve a heart attack victim's chance of survival.

First aid for a heart attack can also mean simply helping the patient relax until help arrives. Have the victim sit down and help him or her her loosen any tight clothing. Avoid outward signs of panic, and try to speak calmly to the victim. Reducing the anxiety of the patient and the situation can help the victim manage the stress and pain better. Do not allow the patient to lie down, go to sleep, or cancel the ambulance; if he or she is experiencing heart attack symptoms, it is important to get checked out immediately.

Aspirin can be used to treat heart attacks, but should be taken with caution.
Aspirin can be used to treat heart attacks, but should be taken with caution.

Medication can be an important part of first aid for a heart attack, but must be used with care. If the victim is taking prescription nitroglycerin for a known heart condition, health experts usually recommend administering a dose immediately. Aspirin can also help heart attack victims, but must be used warily as some people have a fatal allergy to aspirin. Unless the victim can affirm that he or she takes aspirin regularly and does not have an allergy to it, it may be safer to wait for emergency paramedics to arrive.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a TheHealthBoard writer.

Learn more...
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a TheHealthBoard writer.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

Wisedly33

@Scrbblechick -- Very true about 911, but if the person isn't allergic to aspirin, I'd also give two full strength with a little water. My doctor advised me to do that when I was having chest pains. Thank the Lord it was just a panic attack! But I'd never had one before, so I had no idea what was going on. I just knew I thought I was having a heart attack. Of course, with a panic attack, the fear feeds the panic, which magnifies every symptom.

Most people know if they're allergic to aspirin. I'd say give a BC or Goody's powder if there are any around, since those tend to work very quickly, assuming the person isn't allergic. But call 911 first, every time, before doing anything else. And take a Red Cross CPR class. You never know when you might need it.

Scrbblchick

Definitely call 911 even if you just suspect a heart attack. It can mean the difference between life and death -- literally. Sometimes, a heart attack doesn't always feel like what you read about. Sometimes, it's just the worst acid reflux in the world, and pain on the left side. That's really the red flag: pain in the left arm, or on the left side of the jaw. Even with no other definite symptoms, with pain on the left side, that radiates to the jaw and through to the back, I'd still call an ambulance. You simply can't be too careful when there are any heart attack symptoms. Calling 911 is always the best solution.

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    • The anatomy of a heart attack.
      By: Alila
      The anatomy of a heart attack.
    • First aid may improve a heart attack victim's chance of survival.
      By: mangostock
      First aid may improve a heart attack victim's chance of survival.
    • Aspirin can be used to treat heart attacks, but should be taken with caution.
      By: blueskies9
      Aspirin can be used to treat heart attacks, but should be taken with caution.
    • Calling 911 as soon as possible may save the life of a heart attack victim.
      By: nandyphotos
      Calling 911 as soon as possible may save the life of a heart attack victim.