man with hand up looking away from camera

The ‘cough CPR’ myth has been circulating the internet for a while now, especially on social media sites. If you come across it, please avoid sharing and spreading it any further and consider letting the person who posted it know that there’s no truth in it.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the correct treatment for sudden cardiac arrest, which is when the heart suddenly stops pumping. The majority of people having a heart attack will not suffer a cardiac arrest, and by attempting ‘cough CPR’ they could make their condition worse. 

The Resuscitation Council UK

We get alot of questions on first aid courses from people who have heard about “cough CPR” and “How to survive a heart attack when alone”. Incorrect advice has been put on the Internet that someone who thinks he or she is suffering a heart attack should repeatedly cough and go at once to a hospital, by car if necessary.

This advice is based (very loosely) on published case reports of people being able to maintain some sort of cardiac output during cardiac arrest by vigorous coughing – so-called “cough CPR”. The scenario has usually been of a patient developing ventricular fibrillation whilst being monitored, often whilst undergoing cardiac catheterisation. The patient has been encouraged to cough and a measurable circulation has been recorded. This anecdotal evidence supports the theory that chest compressions during CPR are successful because they increase intrathoracic pressure and result in a flow of blood. The collapsed veins and patent arteries at the thoracic inlet result in this flow being in a forward direction. Coughing produces the same effect.

The Resuscitation Council UK knows of no evidence that, even if a lone patient knew that cardiac arrest had occurred, he or she would be able to maintain sufficient circulation to allow any activity:

Cardiac arrest usually causes loss of consciousness within a matter of seconds, giving a person no warning. Even if a person suspected that they were having a cardiac arrest, it is highly unlikely that coughing could maintain enough circulation to do anything else, let alone drive safely.

By attending our BLS & AED courses you will learn when and how to use CPR and a defibrillator safely and effectively.