Fact-check: Does cough could save you from heart-attack?

Please pause for 2 minutes and read it! Imagine that it is 19.15 pm and you are going home (of course, alone) after an unusually hard day at work. You are very tired and upset…” — the story of how to survive a heart attack began its life on the Internet in 1999, but still, the topic is much talked about. Experts and other people vigorously discuss “the right cough”. Many myths have spawned around it.

We figure out the facts and myths.

Can heart-attack victims help themselves?

The newsletter about how quickly and simply provide first aid to yourself in a heart attack is perceived by many people as indisputable truth. At first glance, the description sounds very realistic: 

Suddenly you begin to experience severe chest pain, which shoots up your arm and rises to your jaw. You are only five kilometres from the hospital closest to your home.

Unfortunately, you do not know if you can reach it. You have undertaken a first aid course and an indirect heart massage, but the teacher who conducted the course did not say how to make it for yourself.

However, such victims can help themselves by repeated and very energetic cough. Take a deep breath before each cough. The cough must be deep and prolonged, like expectoration of sputum from the depths of the lungs. Repeat inhale and cough about every 2 seconds without interruption until help arrives or until the heart begins to beat again.

Deep breaths deliver oxygen to the lungs, and coughing movements squeeze the heart and support blood circulation. The compressive pressure on the heart also helps it restore a normal rhythm. Thus, victims of a heart attack can get to the hospital.

A reference to this text, repeated almost without variation, can be found in a variety of information sources. For example, Komsomolskaya Pravda published an article called “Three rules on how to save lives in a heart attack without medication” with the infographic, based on data from a spam mailing. You can also find the text from this newsletter on the Moscow International College website in the section “First Aid Skills”.

Is this statement scientific?

Source: easy and genius 

“In search of a quick way to provide first aid in case of a heart attack, doctors found an easy and genius way. Waiting for emergency aid, a person who has felt severe chest pain must “cough” several times “correctly”, the Vesti.ru wrote about the study of Professor Tadeusz Petelentz (born 1925) on September 2003.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the European Heart Organization, the Polish professor said that he had tried the “correct cough method” on 115 patients who had an increased risk of heart failure. He taught people to cough vigorously at the first symptoms of an attack. In 292 out of 365 cases, all the symptoms disappeared. Patients needed medical assistance in only 73 cases.

However, colleagues of Petelentz were sceptical about his performance. According to other cardiologists, the concept is provocative and unproven. Experts have expressed doubts that the “correct cough method” will be of practical value. Dr Martin Rosenquist, professor of cardiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and an expert on heart rate abnormalities said that Petelentz did not provide any evidence that his patients actually had an arrhythmia during the incidents.

How to survive a heart attack when you are alone

Since then, there were no reports in the press on scientific research on the cardiopulmonary resuscitation cough, but there have been many denials. The Rochester Hospital, which credits the authorship of the spam text “How to survive a heart attack when you are alone,” denies any involvement (you can get acquainted with refutations here, here, here and here). 

Even the American Heart Association does not recommend using this method in a situation where there is no medical observation. So as Almaty City Cardiology Center too.

We do not use such methods in practice. The key to surviving a heart attack is getting proper medical care, —, says. “In the event of a heart attack, you should immediately call an ambulance, put nitroglycerin under the tongue, dilating blood vessels, and chew ordinary aspirin that dilutes the blood — the faster these drugs are taken, the higher the chances of survival. You can take nitroglycerin in the form of a spray, that is Nitromint aerosol or Isoket Spray. Cough also makes the heart work even more actively, which in case of a heart attack cannot be done in any case.

Shynar Tynaliyeva, head of the III Cardiology Department of the Almaty City Cardiology Center

In other words, a rhythmic cough is too risky for a person experiencing severe chest pain, without a doctor who could correctly assess the situation.