Cough CPR is a Myth...Sort Of
We recently had an excellent ‘Ask the Expert’ submission from www.emssafety.com. This question comes up occasionally and has evolved over the years. The Instructor wanted to know if, “…an individual can save himself from a heart attack by breathing deep and coughing vigorously after noticing a tightness in the chest and a spreading of dull pain to the left arm. Is this possible?”
The short answer is that Cough CPR is a myth.
Cough CPR is a Clinical Intervention
Remember that a heart attack occurs when fatty deposits or a blood clot become trapped in a coronary artery. No amount of coughing will resolve a heart attack.
There is a clinical reason for vigorous coughing but it has to do with raising the patient’s blood pressure for a matter of seconds, and is only done in a hospital setting during an invasive cardiac procedure (like an angiogram) under the supervision of a physician or a nurse.
Official Stance: Cough CPR Not Recommended
Cough CPR is not a valid treatment for the victim of a suspected heart attack or cardiac event. In fact, the suggestion that a person driving a car may begin to cough vigorously and continue driving is dangerous.
Here is AHA’s statement on why they don’t recommend Cough CPR for lay providers to treat heart attack or the onset of VF: Cough CPR Not Recommended.
Call First, Cough Later
The best recommendations for a suspected heart attack are already in the student workbook: Call 9-1-1 and follow the dispatcher’s instructions and take one non-coated, adult aspirin if there are no contraindications.