Friday, March 2, 2007

Internet Misinformation Can Kill You:
"How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone."

Hundreds of people around the country, including me, have been receiving an e-mail message or a Powerpoint presentation 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. For a moment, I thought it was a good idea. Then I went to the articles supposed source, the "Journal Of General Hospital, Rochester". I was shocked to find out the real truth!

Here's what the e-mail or Powerpoint or e-mail says...

Let's say it's 6:15 PM and your driving home (alone of course) after an unusually hard day on the job. You're really tired and're really stressed and upset. Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in you chest that radiates out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only five miles from the hospital nearest you home. Unfortunately, you don't know if you will make it that far.

What to do. You've been trained in CPR but the guy who conducted the course did not teach 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 begins to feel faint has only about 10 seconds left before losing conciousness.

What to do. Do not panic but start coughing repeatedly and very vigourously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.

A breath and a cough must be repeated every two seconds without letup until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and the coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it to regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to the hospital.

According to the supposed source of the article, this email forward 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 advise" 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 might be beneficial under certain circumstances. However, medical experts maintain that the procedure should only be performed under 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 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".

The American Heart Association article states that: "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."

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."

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.
Now here's what to really do...

The American Heart Association's Heart Attack Warning Signs

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

• Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.

• Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

If you or someone you're with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don't wait longer than a few minutes (no more than 5) before calling for help. Call 9-1-1... Get to a hospital right away.

Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive -- up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. The staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.

If you can't access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away. If you're the one having symptoms, don't drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other option.

When you get an e-mail like this, check it out first. Go to the source. Check the internet hoaxes web sites. There is tons of misinformation out there that may cause you to get hurt, severly injured, or even die!

I only say this cause I want you here to continue reading my blog!