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How Do I Give First Aid for a Heart Attack?

First aid may improve a heart attack victim's chance of survival.
The anatomy of a heart attack.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 April 2014
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First aid for a heart attack can help improve a victim's chance of survival. By taking fast, appropriate action, a victim suffering from a heart attack may be more likely to survive until paramedics arrive, and get to medical facilities faster. Some of the steps required in first aid for a heart attack include summoning emergency care, looking for the symptoms of cardiac arrest, helping the victim to relax until help arrives, and administering any medications the patient needs.

The first step in first aid for a heart attack is calling an ambulance, or getting the patient to a nearby emergency room immediately. While not all suspected heart attacks turn out to be the real thing, even a suspicion that cardiac arrest may be occurring warrants urgent medical attention. Emergency medical technicians are much better prepared to handle a patient in cardiac arrest than friends or family members, however well intentioned. Calling an ambulance should be done at the first sign of a heart attack, before any other action is taken.

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Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack can help determine steps to be taken while waiting for help to arrive. If the patient is able to speak, ask him or her what type of pain is occurring, if he or she has any known heart problems, and if he or she has recently experienced chest pain while exercising. If the patient is having difficulty speaking, make sure that he or she is not choking on anything and is breathing normally. If the patient falls unconscious, administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and chest compressions. Call emergency dispatchers and ask for instructions on how to perform these steps if necessary.

First aid for a heart attack can also mean simply helping the patient relax until help arrives. Have the victim sit down and help him or her her loosen any tight clothing. Avoid outward signs of panic, and try to speak calmly to the victim. Reducing the anxiety of the patient and the situation can help the victim manage the stress and pain better. Do not allow the patient to lie down, go to sleep, or cancel the ambulance; if he or she is experiencing heart attack symptoms, it is important to get checked out immediately.

Medication can be an important part of first aid for a heart attack, but must be used with care. If the victim is taking prescription nitroglycerin for a known heart condition, health experts usually recommend administering a dose immediately. Aspirin can also help heart attack victims, but must be used warily as some people have a fatal allergy to aspirin. Unless the victim can affirm that he or she takes aspirin regularly and does not have an allergy to it, it may be safer to wait for emergency paramedics to arrive.

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