Time waits for none, especially when you witness something like a heart attack that demands more than just your immediate attention. It demands promptness. Anything that you do can either save a life or make a situation worse. What you have to do is ensure that you make the situation better. What you don’t have to do is panic.
Heart attacks have become common, but it is not an everyday sight that you would know what to do. So, here’s a handbook that can come in handy for those moments.
But before we tell you what to do, it’s essential to recognise a heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attacks
Usually, heart attacks can be silent and may not show warning signs. However, sometimes they do give warning signs that need to be identified. These signs and symptoms can show up days or weeks before a heart attack. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack:
- The person will have chest pain, which can be characterised by pressure or tightness in the chest, or an aching sensation in the chest. This chest pain doesn’t go away with rest
- Pain in the arms, shoulders, arm, back, neck, teeth or jaw or upper abdomen
- Indigestion, nausea, heartburn or stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or fainting
What to do when someone is having a heart attack?
Call a local emergency number or drive the person to the hospital
There’s no time to wait after you recognise the symptoms of a heart attack. Rush them to the nearest hospital at the earliest. If you cannot drive, dial a local emergency number or call someone for help.
Give the person an aspirin
While aspirin is not the remedy for a heart attack, it can reduce heart damage. It is an over-the-counter medicine taken to treat headaches, pain and fever. Being a blood thinner, it can prevent blood clotting, which can reduce heart damage. However, as aspirin isn’t for everybody, you should check If the person you are giving it to isn’t allergic to aspirin. If they are not allergic, a small dose, 160-335 mg is recommended during a heart attack. It is also recommended that you make the person chew or crush the tablet before swallowing it for faster results.
Perform CPR if the person is unconscious
CPR, also known as Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a first-aid technique performed in medical emergencies, such as a heart attack.
When a person suffers a heart attack and their heart stops working. Consequently, the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, including the brain, is cut off.
CPR ensures that the oxygen-rich blood keeps flowing to the brain and other organs until medical help arrives. The technique involves hard and fast chest compressions.
If you think you are somebody who is untrained to do CPR involving rescue breaths, it’s suggested that you go for hands-only CPR, instead of doing nothing. Please note, it is always better to try than to sit back and watch and do nothing at all. The difference between doing something and doing nothing at all could be someone’s life.
Checklist before you begin CPR
- The person should be unconscious.
- Check the person’s pulse and breathing. CPR is to be performed when there is no pulse or breathing. If you don’t feel the pulse or breathing for 10 seconds, it’s time you begin chest compressions. If you find the person breathing, place them in a recovery position and observe their breathing. Begin CPR if and when the breathing stops.
- CPR cannot be performed on a newborn baby.
How to perform CPR (with rescue breaths) if you are a trained professional
- Lay the person on the ground. Ensure their back is on the floor.
- Start the CPR with 30 chest compressions. Keep one of your hands on top of the other to clasp them together. Push hard and fast in the centre of the chest, a little below the nipples, with the heel of the hands and straight elbows.
- Push at least 2 inches deep. Perform these 30 compressions. Allow the chest to rise fully between compressions.
- Give two rescue breaths to the person. Ensure their mouth is clear. You can begin by tilting their head back slightly and lifting their chin. Pinch their nose shut and place your mouth fully over theirs. Blow to make their chest rise.
- Repeat this cycle, involving 30 compressions and 2 rescue breaths until help arrives.
If you are not trained, perform hands-only CPR
- Keep pushing the person’s chest at the rate of 100 to 120 times per minute (push down 2 inches each time.) Ensure you let their chest come all the way back up in between these compressions.
Acting swiftly and effectively when faced with a heart attack can mean the difference between life and death. By recognising the signs, calling emergency services immediately, and initiating cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary, you can significantly increase the chances of survival and minimise the potential damage to the heart. Equipping yourself with knowledge about these essential steps and spreading awareness among others can create a society where everyone is prepared to respond promptly in the face of a heart attack, saving countless lives and ensuring a healthier future for all.