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Chest pain: First aid

Causes of chest pain can vary from minor problems, such as indigestion or stress, to serious medical emergencies, such as a heart attack or pulmonary embolism. The specific cause of chest pain is often difficult to interpret. Finding the cause of your chest pain can be challenging, especially if you've never had symptoms in the past. Even doctors may have a difficult time deciding if chest pain is a sign of a heart attack or something less serious, such as indigestion. If you have unexplained chest pain lasting more than a few minutes, you should seek emergency medical assistance rather than trying to diagnose the cause yourself. As with other sudden, unexplained pains, chest pain may be a signal for you to get medical help. Use the following information to help you determine whether your chest pain is a medical emergency.

Heart attack
A heart attack occurs when an artery that supplies oxygen to your heart muscle becomes blocked. A heart attack may cause chest pain that lasts 15 minutes or longer. But a heart attack can also be silent and produce no signs or symptoms. Many people who experience a heart attack have warning symptoms hours, days or weeks in advance. The earliest warning sign of an attack may be ongoing episodes of chest pain that start when you're physically active, but are relieved by rest. Someone having a heart attack may experience any or all of the following:

Uncomfortable pressure, fullness or squeezing pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes

Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms Lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath If you or someone else may be having a heart attack:

Call 911 or emergency medical assistance. Don't "tough out" the symptoms of a heart attack for more than five minutes. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone, such as a neighbor or friend, drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, if there are absolutely no other options. Driving yourself puts you and others at risk if your condition suddenly worsens.

Chew a regular-strength aspirin. Aspirin reduces blood clotting, which can help blood flow through a narrowed artery that's caused a heart attack. However, don't take aspirin if you are allergic to aspirin, have bleeding problems or take another blood-thinning medication, or if your doctor previously told you not to do so.

Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed. If you think you're having a heart attack and your doctor has previously prescribed nitroglycerin for you, take it as directed. Don't take anyone else's nitroglycerin.

Begin CPR on the person having a heart attack, if directed. If the person suspected of having a heart attack is unconscious, a 911 dispatcher or another emergency medical specialist may advise you to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Even if you're not trained, a dispatcher can instruct you in CPR until help arrives. If help from a 911 dispatcher or emergency medical specialist is unavailable, begin CPR. If you don't know CPR, begin pushing hard and fast on the person's chest 100 compressions per minute.

First Aid for Chest Pain

Chest pain may sound minor at first, but it can be the sign of a more serious problem. In some cases a person with chest pain may have had a history of heart attacks or other chest problems. By knowing the right methods of first aid for chest pain you can help a person who is suffering from pain and to help reduce the level of injury from chest pain. The first part of first aid for chest pain is to recognize what the signs of chest pains are. Chest pains are normally identifiable by a person having shortness of breath and tight feelings. These can be signs of a possible heart attack in many cases. When administering first aid for chest pain you will need to watch for certain things before calling for emergency help. If the person has had chest pains for a long period of time or there is a great amount of sweating coming with the chest pains then you

will need to call for emergency help and get the person to a hospital. While first aid for chest pain can help, it is important to know when to contact a hospital to help get the victims oxygen and blood flow levels back to normal. Part of first aid for chest pain involves determining if you should call for help or go to the hospital on your own. Chest pains can develop into heart attacks after about fifteen minutes, but if you are feeling chest pains and are alone you may need to drive yourself to the hospital. However, calling for emergency help can work because driving with chest pains is not always recommended. One important part of first aid for chest pain is to make sure the victim is not doing anything to make the pain worse. If a person is having chest pains be sure to keep that person from doing anything and to have that person rest so that the pains do not become any more severe. The windows in the area you are at should be opened. This is important for first aid for chest pain because fresh air will be let in. Also, CPR should be started on the victim. Tight clothes that the victim may be wearing should be loosened so that circulation of blood and oxygen in the body will improve. If a doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin for the chest pain victim be sure to get the person to take it according to the doctors orders. Aspirin can help if the chest pains are moving towards the neck or arms. The last part of first aid for chest pain involves being able to get help as soon as possible. The amount of time between pains and a heart attack will be short if the heart is not beating well. If you are giving CPR you will need to alternate between CPR and thumping on the victims heart so that beating levels can increase. Remember, first aid for chest pain caused by gas does not require such severe treatments. Antacids or soda water can help in these cases.
First Aid for Chest Pain
The action taken during the first few minutes of an emergency is critical in the survival of an individual with chest pain of cardiac origin.1 In the absence of immediate medical help, the following steps should be practiced:

Have the person sit and try to calm down. Loosen any tight clothing. Enquire if the person takes any chest pain medication for a known heart condition.

If he or she does, help the person to take the medication (usually nitroglycerin, placed under the tongue. Aspirin can help if the chest pain is moving towards the neck or arms). If the pain does not subside with rest or within 3 min of taking nitroglycerin, call for emergency medical help as soon as possible. Monitor the person for breathing and pulse. If the person is unresponsive, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).1 The procedure involves the following steps: 1. Look for the notch at the lower edge of the ribcage. Place your middle finger in this notch and your index finger beside it. Take the heel of the other hand and slide it down the breastbone until it touches the index finger and position it on the middle of the lower half of the breastbone. 2. Then, place the heel of the other hand on top of the first. Interlace the fingers together and keep them off the chest. 3. Keep your elbows straight and press down. Apply pressure through the heels of the hands only. 4. Compress the chest about one and half to two inches (four to five cm). Allow the chest to completely recoil before the next compression. 5. Repeat the movement 15 times, followed by artificial respiration twice and check for carotid pulse for at least 10 sec. Alternate this procedure in the ratio of 15:2 until help arrives. 6. Chest compressions are extremely important. If you are not comfortable giving rescue breaths, continue with chest compressions.

The latest guidelines published by the American Heart Association had recommended compression: ventilation ratio of 30:2 instead of 15:2. This was based on observations that rescue breaths caused unacceptably long interruptions during chest compressions. When chest compressions are interrupted by rescue breathing, blood flow to the heart and the 24-hsurvival had been shown to decrease and the probability of return of spontaneous circulation is reduced from high to low, when CPR is interrupted for 20 sec.2

Dos and Donts to avoid Chest pain


Never drive yourself to the hospital when you are having chest pain. Never leave the person suffering from chest pain alone except to call for help. Do not wait to see if the symptoms go away. Do not give the person anything orally unless a heart medication such as nitroglycerin has been prescribed. When performing chest compressions do not take off your hand. Let the chest recoil fully but keep the heel of your hand in contact with the sternum at all times. Do not stop if you feel pops and snaps, when you begin chest compressions, as this is not going to make the victim any worse.