Chest pain is often a major concern for many middle aged people. Because it's such an important symptom of a heart problem, people rightly avoid waiting too long to seek medical attention for it. In fact, almost 10% of all emergency room visits each year are caused by the onset of chest pain.
That means it's important for you to know how to respond when either you or your loved ones experience chest pain. Even if you're not at the age where heart attacks are a major concern, understanding what to do--and when--can make a great deal of difference for the people you care about.
When To Call Your Doctor
Many people tend to attribute chest pains to heartburn. As a result, it's not uncommon for the victim to take an antacid and sit down for a moment--particularly if they have a history of heartburn or gas pains. This mindset can cost valuable minutes when the pains are caused by a much more serious condition.
The decision, then, isn't about whether you should call your doctor or not--it's between calling your doctor or 911 immediately. Some of the symptoms that can accompany chest pain during a heart attack include:
- Upper body pain
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling lightheaded
However, the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn't try to play doctor during this situation. A phone call to a physician should begin immediately upon noticing the symptoms. They will be able to help you determine your next step. If there are any other signs that the pain might be caused by a heart attack, that call should go to 911 immediately. In these situations, every minute matters.
How To Care For The Victim
Once you've made the call for help, you'll need to care for either yourself or your loved one. The type of care required depends on the severity of the situation, but a few simple tips can help you provide immediate care--whether the chest pain is caused by a heart attack or not.
If symptoms have just begun, and they don't seem too severe, the first thing you should do is take notice of the time. Experts suggest that you shouldn't try to endure the symptoms of a heart attack for more than 5 minutes, even though a heart attack typically causes pain for more than 15 minutes. No matter how much the victim protests, once you pass the 5 minute mark, you should seek advanced help.
The next thing you should do is attempt to make the victim comfortable. If the pains are caused by heartburn or gas, loosening their belt or having them sit/stand upright can help relieve the pain. If you've decided to contact a physician, the process of getting into contact with them can take a few minutes. Sometimes, this simple response can help alleviate pain before you can even speak to them.
Another preventative action you can take is to swallow an aspirin. Many heart attacks are caused by platelets in blood collecting and creating clots. Aspirin inhibits this process, but your body doesn't need a lot to accomplish this. One small aspirin will do.
The last thing you can do for a victim is to begin CPR if they lose consciousness. If this is the case, there is no doubt that you should have already called 911. The dispatcher will assist you with the proper procedure and technique--even if you are not trained in the process. Hopefully, if you've been actively caring for the victim, help will arrive before this point.
Chest pains can indicate severe medical issues that should not be taken lightly. Everything else aside, your primary duty during a chest pain event is to contact help immediately. Your response time, combined with the effectiveness of your care during the episode, can have a tremendous impact.
For more information and tips, contact a local heart clinic like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology.