By: Frankie Wood-Black, Safety Expert
While we don’t think of Heart Awareness Month as a safety-related topic, it is a great time to review some of those basic first aid techniques. So, let’s do a quick review. What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? And, did you know that the symptoms can be different for men and women? Common symptoms for both men and women include pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeeze in your chest or arms, but it can be in your neck, jaw, or back.
Heart attacks can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. They are frequently accompanied by shortness of breath, cold sweats, fatigue, or lightheadedness. But, women may or may not experience the same type of discomfort that we commonly think of as a heart attack. Men might say it feels like an elephant is sitting on their chest, and the pain begins to radiate to the arms.
Women tend to associate the symptoms with indigestion or feel the pain in the neck or jaw and may sense the pressure or pain in the lower chest or abdomen. And, now with COVID-19, distinguishing the virus and a heart attack may be a bit tricky, as patients with COVID-19 may have coronavirus-associated myocarditis.
If you encounter a person having a heart attack, the first step of course, is getting help. Dial 911 or specifically point to or name a person to call 911. Then begin providing help. This could be by performing hands-only CPR or utilizing an automated external defibrillator (AED). If you are using hands-only CPR, clasp one hand over the other and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of a familiar song that has 100 to 120 beats per minute. “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, and (excuse the irony), “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen are two with the appropriate beat patterns. See the American Heart Association fact sheet or review their quick training video.
AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) are becoming more ubiquitous. Your workplace is likely to have one close by. Several communities have AED stations that are readily accessible to the general public. Look around for one in places that you commonly frequent, as knowing where one is can improve the chances of saving someone’s life. They are easy to use and come with picture directions, so even if you aren’t familiar with that particular style or model, you should be able to use one quickly. But, if you know the model that is in your area, now is a good time to stop and look at the general steps:
- Remove the AED from its location and turn on the device. Follow any audio and/or visual prompts
- Open the person’s shirt, and wipe the bare chest dry.
- Attach the AED pads, and plug in the connector (if necessary)
- Make sure no one is touching the person (including yourself)
- Push analyze or follow the directions provided by the device.
- Follow the instructions for the device.
Knowing how to perform these actions, may make all the difference.
 Siripanthong B, Nazarian S, Muser D, Deo R, Santangeli P, Khanji MY, Cooper LT Jr, Chahal CAA. Recognizing COVID-19-related myocarditis: The possible pathophysiology and proposed guideline for diagnosis and management. Heart Rhythm. 2020 Sep;17(9):1463-1471. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2020.05.001. Epub 2020 May 5. PMID: 32387246; PMCID: PMC7199677.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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