VERIFY: Does coughing during a heart attack help buy time?

Does coughing during a heart attack--sometimes called "Cough CPR"--help buy time for paramedics to arrive?

QUESTION:

Does coughing during a heart attack--sometimes called "Cough CPR"--help buy time for paramedics to arrive?

ANSWER:

Unfortunately, no. Coughing can actually make your heart stressed out.

SOURCES:

Dr. Reginald Robinson- cardiologist with Medstar Heart & Vascular Institute at Medstar Washington Hospital Center and American Heart Association Board of Directors, President-Elect 

Dr. Dasia Merriweather- former paramedic with District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department and director of Westlink Career Institute

Retired Capt. Gerald Blanks- EMS instructor at Westlink Career Institute

Dr. Henry Halperin- co-director of Johns Hopkins Imaging Institute of Excellence 

American Heart Association- "Cough CPR

British Heart Foundation- "Could something called 'cough CPR' save my life?"

PROCESS:

Since shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest are two common warning signs that you may be having a heart attack, it sounds plausible that coughing repeated, deep coughs could help sustain you will help is on its way.

While coughs do fill your body with oxygen and create a pseudo-pump, unfortunately this is just another hoax that began in the mid 1990s. 

Verify began with the American Heart Association, which does not endorse "Cough CPR," for someone who is conscious during a heart attack.

The American Heart Association indicates that coughing deeply to stabilize a heart beat should only be used in a hospital setting during a sudden arrhythmia while being hooked-up to an EKG and monitored by physicians. This is not something recommended for an individual to do to themselves. 

The British Heart Foundation dismisses "Cough CPR" as a hoax. 

"The ‘cough CPR’ myth has been circulating the internet for a while now, especially on social media sites such as Facebook," the foundation's website says. "If you come across it, please avoid spreading it any further and consider letting the person who posted it know that there’s no truth in it."

To cross-examine what we saw online, our Verify researchers spoke with Dr. Reginald Robinson, cardiologist with Medstar Heart & Vascular Institute, Dr. Dasia Merriweather of Westlink Career Institute (a DC-certified EMS training school) and Dr. Henry Halperin at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to see whether coughing helps.

The doctors don't endorse it. Paramedics don't teach it.

"Coughing won't do anything for someone who's having a heart attack because it's from a blocked artery or a spasm in the artery that decreases blood flow and oxygen to the heart," Robinson said. "If it last long enough that can cause an arrhythmia which can cause cardiac arrest."

"[Coughing], that's not one of the things that we teach the students when they take the training program," Merriweather said. "What we do teach them is activating the 911 system and getting help to solve the situation."

If an individual is alone during the onset of a heart attack, Robinson recommends three things: 1. calling 911 2. chew on a baby Aspirin 3. unlock the front door of your home so EMTs can reach you. 

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© 2017 WUSA-TV


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