Cough CPR as an emergency form of self CPR - is it recommended?

Cough CPR is a suggested resuscitation technique that began circulating on the internet around 1999. The premise is that by coughing and deep breathing every two seconds a person suffering a cardiac arrhythmia immediately before cardiac arrest can supposedly keep conscious until help arrives (or until the person can get to the nearest hospital). The reasoning is that coughing increases intra-thoracic pressure and generates blood flow to the brain to maintain consciousness.  Although the technique is actually taught to doctors, nurses, and paramedics for use in controlled clinical situations, this widely-circulated theory confuses the difference between a "heart attack" and a "cardiac arrest". Cough CPR is intended only for imminent cardiac arrest.

During cardiac catheterization, patients may develop sudden arrhythmias. If a life-threatening arrhythmia is detected in the first 10 to 15 seconds and before the patient loses consciousness, a physician or nurse may tell the patient to cough until the arrhythmia disappears or is treated.

The usefulness of this approach is essentially limited to patients who are being monitored in the hospital setting.

The American Heart Association does not endorse it as a form of self CPR.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada also says that "the use of cough CPR should be limited to clinical situations when the personal's cardiac rhythm is monitored and the impending arrest is recognized by a health care professional."

Neither the American Heart Association or the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada teach this CPR procedure as part of their CPR instructions.

The best strategy, which is endorsed by both organizations, is to be aware of the early warning signs of heart attack and cardiac arrest and to respond to them quickly by calling 9-1-1. If you are driving alone and you start having severe chest pain or discomfort that spreads into your arm and up into your jaw, immediately pull over and flag down another motorist for help or phone 9-1-1 on a cell phone. Don't drive yourself to the hospital!

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