“Cough CPR” is an Urban Legend

Cough CPRThere is a popular rumor on the internet and social networks, suggesting that if you are alone and having a heart attack, you may be able to save your life by coughing. Like most internet urban legends, there may or may not be a kernel of truth to it, “Cough CPR” is sometimes used in emergency rooms under medical supervision, but that is where the truth seems to end.

Unfortunately, this particular rumor is also potentially very dangerous, because its value if any is uncertain, indeed most experts believe it to be unlikely to help at all with the most common types of heart attacks or when used without professional supervision. If the victim of a heart attack should mistakenly try to use this technique, believing it will save his or her life, they may neglect to take actions whose value is more established.

To be clear, in the event of a heart attack, especially when one strikes while you are alone, the best things to do immediately are to call 911 and take an aspirin. Do not hesitate to do these things, which are far more likely to save your life than trying to self-administer “Cough CPR”.

There is no incontrovertible evidence that “Cough CPR” is in fact effective for heart problems, and even if it is, it is certainly not recommended except under the guidance of Healthcare Professionals, and is more likely to benefit cases of abnormal heart rhythm, which is not the cause of most life-threatening heart attacks. In fact neither the American Heart Association nor any other reputable medical body recommends “Cough CPR” as a life-saving procedure, especially without the aid of medical experts.

The misconception dates back to 1999 to a Mended Hearts Newsletter, which was later retracted, and has since spread through website, email, and more recently social networks, always worded so as to give the impression that it is endorsed by professional medical practitioners or researchers.

Heart attacks can be devastating to your health, even fatal, and one should never hesitate to seek emergency care for even a minute when one strikes.

Dr. Michael Petrie, D.C.
Spine and Joint Center