This story was first published on October 4, 2004
Message claims heart doctors recommend that recipients learn ‘Cough CPR’, a procedure that involves vigorous coughing as a potential means of surviving a heart attack when alone.
The information in the message is in no way condoned or recommended by medical authorities. Spreading such misinformation is counterproductive and potentially dangerous. Using the procedure outlined in the message in place of immediately seeking medical help could actually cost a life rather than save it.
Subject: IMPORTANT read this! Cough CPRA cardiologist says If everyone who gets this mail sends it to 10 people, you can bet that we’ll save at least one life.
Read this… It could save your life!! Let’s say it’s 6.15 pm and you’re driving home (alone of course), after an unusually hard day on the job. You’re really tired, upset and frustrated. Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to radiate out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far. You have been trained in CPR, but the guy that taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.
HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE
Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness. However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest. A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again. Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital. Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!!
BE A FRIEND AND PLEASE SEND THIS ARTICLE TO AS MANY FRIENDS AS POSSIBLE
A message that offers spurious advice about how to survive a heart attack has been continually circulating around the Internet since at least 1999.
The message outlines a technique for surviving a heart attack while alone that involves vigorous coughing. According to the email, a cardiologist has advised forwarding the message to others in order to save lives. However, the alleged cardiologist is not named, nor is there any reference to a reputable medical institution. In my opinion, any life-critical “medical advice” that is not supported by credible reference material should be used with extreme caution.
It should be noted that the cough procedure outlined in the email is not, in itself, a hoax and has been researched and tested by medical experts. In fact, so called “Cough CPR” might be beneficial under certain controlled circumstances. However, this does not mean that the advice in the email message is valid and useful. The most important factor to consider is that, according to medical experts, cough CPR should only be performed under strict professional supervision.
According to the American Heart Association, “the usefulness of ‘cough CPR’ is generally limited to monitored patients with a witnessed arrest in the hospital setting”. The American Heart Association article also notes:
The American Heart Association does not endorse “cough CPR,” a coughing procedure widely publicized on the Internet. As noted in the 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care, “cough CPR” is not useful for unresponsive victims and should not be taught to lay rescuers.
Moreover, the Resuscitation Council in the UK “knows of no evidence that, even if a lone patient knew that cardiac arrest had occurred, he or she would be able to maintain sufficient circulation to allow activity, let alone driving to the hospital”.
A victim would probably be better off directing his or her energy towards other life-saving options such as seeking immediate help or calling the emergency number. The American Heart Association article also states:
The best strategy is to be aware of the early warning signs for heart attack and cardiac arrest and respond to them by calling [the emergency number in your country]. If you’re driving alone and you start having severe chest pain or discomfort that starts to spread into your arm and up into your jaw (the scenario presented in the Internet article), pull over and flag down another motorist for help or phone [the emergency number in your country] on a cellular telephone.
Heart patient support organization Mended Hearts has also debunked the procedure:
Despite a contagious rumor, coughing doesn’t prevent a heart attack. An e-mail that spread around the world like a contagious disease a few years ago claimed that anyone who feels heart attack symptoms while alone should cough “repeatedly and very vigorously, repeating a breath about every two seconds…until help arrives, or (a normal heartbeat returns).”
Wrong, says the American Heart Association.
“It’s right up there with voodoo as far as I’m concerned,” says Dr. Cary Fishbein, a cardiologist with the Dayton Heart Center.
Another version of the message arrives as an email attachment rendered in Microsoft PowerPoint format. Someone has gone to quite a lot of trouble to convert the original message into an attractive presentation complete with graphics and sound. In spite of the probable good intentions of the creator, the advice presented in the PowerPoint version is as equally spurious as it is in the email version. The PowerPoint version falsely attributes the information to an article in the “Journal Of General Hospital, Rochester”. However, the Rochester General Hospital denies that such an article exists and has included the following statement on its website:
Important Notice Regarding the article “How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone.”
Hundreds of people around the country have been receiving an e-mail message entitled “How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone.” This article recommends a procedure to survive a heart attack in which the victim is advised to repeatedly cough at regular intervals until help arrives.
The source of information for this article was attributed to ViaHealth Rochester General Hospital. This article is being propagated on the Internet as individuals send it to friends and acquaintances – and then those recipients of the memo send it to their friends and acquaintances, and so on.
We can find no record that an article even resembling this was produced by Rochester General Hospital within the last 20 years. Furthermore, the medical information listed in the article can not be verified by current medical literature and is in no way condoned by this hospital’s medical staff. Also, both The Mended Hearts, Inc., a support organization for heart patients, and the American Heart Association have said that this information should not be forwarded or used by anyone. Please help us combat the proliferation of this misinformation. We ask that you please send this e-mail to anyone who sent you the article, and please ask them to do the same.
Thus, the “advice” presented in this email forward is not condoned by medical experts and it certainly should not be forwarded to “as many friends as possible”. Forwarding this sort of misinformation is irresponsible. Using the procedure outlined in the message in place of immediately seeking medical help could actually cost a life rather than save it.