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Chest pain: First aid/Conditions/Prevention

 Chest pain: First aid

The first aid for chest pain depends on the cause. Some causes of chest pain are minor problems such as heartburn or emotional stress, while other causes are more serious, such as a heart attack or pulmonary embolism.

It is difficult to determine the cause of chest pain without previous experience with this symptom. If you experience unexplained chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes, seek emergency medical attention.

Chest pain: First aid


Heart attack

A heart attack typically causes pain in the chest for more than 15 minutes. The pain can be mild or severe, and some heart attacks strike suddenly but many people experience warning signs hours or days in advance.

If someone has a heart attack, they may have any or all of the following symptoms:

  • If you are experiencing chest pain, pressure, or tightness, this may be a sign that there is something wrong with your heart.
  • This pain or discomfort can spread to different parts of the body, including the shoulder, arm, back, neck, and jaw. Sometimes it can also affect the teeth or the upper abdomen.
  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, and abdominal pain are all symptoms of a stomachache.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
  • Sweating

Women usually have more subtle symptoms such as nausea or back or jaw pain that may be more intense than chest pain.

If you or someone else is having a heart attack, follow these first-aid steps:

  • If you or someone you know is in danger, call 911 or emergency medical assistance.If you experience any of the symptoms of a heart attack, do not ignore them. If you cannot get an ambulance or emergency vehicle to come to you, have a neighbor or friend drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if there is no other option. Because your condition can worsen if you drive yourself, it is important to take precautions.Other people can be at risk.
  • Chew aspirin. Aspirin is a medication that prevents clotting and keeps blood flowing through an injured artery. Do not take aspirin if you have chest pain from a heart attack or if you are allergic to aspirin, have bleeding problems, or are taking another medication. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are taking a blood-thinning medication, or if your doctor has told you not to do so.
  • Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed.If you think you're having a heart attack, take your prescribed nitroglycerin as directed. Do not take any other person's nitroglycerin.
  • If someone is having a heart attack, start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).The American Heart Association recommends starting CPR by thrusting your hands against the person's chest. Push hard and fast for 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
  • If you find someone who has stopped breathing, try to help them with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). If that doesn't work, use an AED to restart their heart.If someone is unconscious and the device is immediately available, follow the device's instructions for use.

Angina

Angina is chest pain that is caused by a lack of blood flow to your heart muscle. It is relatively common, and it can be hard to tell the difference from other types of chest pain such as indigestion.

Angina can be a stable or unstable condition.

  • Stable angina is chest pain that usually occurs during activity and is relatively predictable. The pain usually lasts for a set amount of time and occurs in a predictable pattern.
  • Chest pain that is sudden, new, or changes from the typical pattern is an indication of unstable angina. This could lead to a future heart attack.

If your angina gets worse or changes, go to the emergency room immediately.

Pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung. When it happens, a clot usually found in another part of your body - like your leg or pelvis - can break free and get stuck in an artery in your lungs. This obstructs blood flow, making it harder for your lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of your body.

Pulmonary embolism can cause symptoms such as:

  • Sudden chest pain is often accompanied by shortness of breath.
  • Shortness of breath without pain is a sign that something is wrong.
  • When you have a cold, you may produce blood-streaked sputum.
  • Rapid heartbeat with shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Unexplained sweating
  • A blood clot in one leg is the only cause of a swollen leg.

If you have any symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, such as chest pain, seek emergency medical help right away. This can be life-threatening.

Aortic dissection

Aortic dissection is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta. When this tear becomes big enough, blood rushes into it and causes the inner and middle layers to separate (dissect). This is a life-threatening condition that needs urgent treatment.If you get hurt, go to the hospital.

Typical signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe chest or upper back pain is often described as a pain that feels like it is tearing, ripping, or shearing. This pain can also affect the neck or down the back.
  • Loss of consciousness (fainting)
  • Shortness of breath
  • If you experience sudden difficulty speaking, loss of vision, or paralysis on one side of your body, it might be a sign of a stroke.
  • Heavy sweating
  • One arm has a weaker pulse than the other does.

If you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it could be a sign that you have an aortic dissection or another serious condition.If you are experiencing a medical emergency, go to the nearest emergency room.

Pneumonia can sometimes be accompanied by pleurisy.

Pneumonia is a condition that causes signs and symptoms such as chest pain, chills, fever, and a cough that may produce bloody or foul-smelling sputum. Pleurisy is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the lungs (pleura). It can cause chest pain when you take a breath or when you cough.

Pleurisy pain is usually relieved temporarily by holding your breath or pressing on the painful area of your chest.

If you have recently been diagnosed with pneumonia, and start having symptoms of pleurisy (such as chest pain), contact your doctor. Pleurisy is not an emergency, but you should not try to make the diagnosis yourself.

Pericarditis

Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the thin saclike tissue that surrounds your heart. This can cause pain in the chest that gets worse when you cough, sit upright, or take a deep breath.

If pericarditis is mild, it usually goes away without any treatment. If pericarditis is more severe, you may need medication or rarely surgery.

If you experience sudden unexplained chest pain, seek emergency medical help. It can be difficult to tell the difference between sudden pericarditis and a heart attack- if you experience this type of pain, go to the hospital.

Chest wall pain

Chest pain is a type of muscle pain. Bruised chest muscles can cause harmless pain in the chest.

Costochondritis is a type of chest pain that causes pain and tenderness in and around the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone.

If you often experience pain in the area near your breastbone, it's likely that you have costochondritis. If you touch the area gently and the pain is mild, then it's unlikely that you have a serious condition such as a heart attack.

When to see a doctor

People often go to the doctor because they have chest pain. This can be due to anxiety, indigestion, infection, muscle strain, or heart or lung problems.

If you are experiencing chest pain that you have not experienced before or if the cause of the pain is unknown, seek help from a doctor. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number. Do not attempt to diagnose your own chest pain or ignore it. Your treatment will depend on the specific cause of the pain.

Chest pain: First aid/Conditions/Prevention

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