One expert says the email offers terrible advice. It claims you should cough, hard, with each breath until help arrives.
Dr. Shikar Saxena, a cardiologist in Omaha-Council Bluffs, says it’s best to delete that email and try to forget the false remedy.
“That is absolutely ludicrous to say that somebody who’s alone who’s having a heart attack can cough and essentially save their life,” Dr. Saxena says. “You only have about ten seconds, if you’re truly having arrhythmia, before you’re going to pass out from it.”
He says that valuable time would be much better spent getting to a phone and calling 911. Saxena explains the likely origins of the well-meaning but invalid email.
“When we have patients who have cardiac arrest or arrhythmias and we see them in the hospital, we tell them sometimes to cough and very rarely can we get them out of this arrhythmia,” Dr. Saxena says, “so that’s where this all started from.”
The subject line in the email is: “How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone,” and it’s been floating around cyberspace for years but it’s found new life in the past few weeks.
Shikar is a cardiologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.