Learn first aid for someone who may be having a heart attack
1. The person may have persistent, vice-like chest pain, which may spread to their arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.
This pain happens because a blockage stops blood getting to the heart muscle. The pain will not ease with rest.
2. Call 999 as soon as possible.
If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it. The person needs medical help as soon as possible. A heart attack can be very serious and needs immediate attention.
3. Help the person to sit down.
Ensure they are comfortable – for example, sitting on the floor and leaning against a chair or a wall. Sitting will ease the strain on the heart. Sitting them on the floor also means they are less likely to hurt themselves if they collapse.
4. Reassure them while you wait for the ambulance.
Watch how to help someone who may be having a heart attack (1 minute 44 seconds)
Common questions about first aid for someone who may be having a heart attack
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked. The blockage means the heart can’t work effectively.
How can I tell if someone is having a heart attack?
The symptoms of a heart attack vary, but may include:
- persistent, vice-like chest pain, which may spread to their arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
- feeling unwell
What is the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?
A heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest.
With a heart attack, a blockage suddenly stops blood reaching the heart and it can’t work effectively. This might cause cardiac arrest, when the heart stops working completely.
Someone having a cardiac arrest will collapse, become unresponsive and stop breathing.
Should I give them aspirin?
You can offer the person an aspirin tablet to chew slowly, as this will help thin their blood. They should not take more than 300mg in one dose.
Should they take any heart medication they have?
If they have tablets or a spray, let them take it. You may need to help them to take it.
What is angina?
Angina is a tight feeling in the chest.
The tight feeling happens because the arteries narrow, restricting the blood supply to the heart. Angina often happens when a person is exercising or excited. Symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath but, unlike a heart attack, symptoms ease with rest and taking prescribed medication.
Most people diagnosed with angina manage it with tablets or spray medication. During an angina attack, the pain should reduce if the person rests and takes their prescribed medication. Call 999 if the pain doesn’t reduce after two doses of medication, as they may be having a heart attack.
What should I do if they become unresponsive?
- how to help someone who is unresponsive and breathing
- how to help someone who is unresponsive and not breathing.
For more information about first aid for someone having a heart attack, visit the NHS website. During life-threatening emergencies, call 999, or for non-emergency medical help, call 111.
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