GUEST COLUMN: How to help someone who is having a heart attack, by Dr Tim Baker, St John Ambulance
A heart attack happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.
Some of the symptoms to watch out for include chest pain and discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Lots of people make a full recovery from a heart attack, but there’s a serious risk that the heart might stop beating – called a cardiac arrest. So it’s vital that you treat someone having a heart attack straight away, otherwise they could die.
If you think someone is having a heart attack, look for the four Ps:
• Pain – a continuous pain in the chest, which could spread to the jaw, neck or arms
• Pale skin
• Pulse that is rapid and weak
People who have angina are more likely to have a heart attack. Angina happens when the arteries to the heart become narrow and the heart muscle can’t get enough blood. This can happen when someone’s doing a physical activity but is even more of a concern if it happens at rest.
Angina pain is usually a tight chest pain, which may ease if they rest straight away and take angina medication, and may only last a few minutes. If the pain lasts longer, presume it’s a heart attack.
What to do if some is having a heart attack...
• Call 999 or 112 for medical help and say you think someone is having a heart attack.
• Then, help move them into the most comfortable position. The best position is on the floor leaning against a wall with knees bent and head and shoulders supported. This should ease the pressure on their heart and stop them hurting themselves if they collapse.
• Give them a 300mg aspirin, if available and they’re not allergic, and tell them to chew it slowly.
• Do not give them any liquid.
• Be aware that they may develop shock. Shock does not mean emotional shock, but is a life-threatening condition, which can be brought on by a heart attack.
• Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.
• If they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check and, if they’ve stopped breathing, you will need to do CPR.
For more information visit www.sja.org.uk