Heart attacks, heartburn and indigestion, and chest muscle pain—all different types of chest pain. The conditions can range from minor to life threatening. Can you tell the difference?
In this section, we’ll take a close look at some of the most common forms of chest pain, symptoms, home treatments, and most importantly when to see a doctor.
Call 911 or emergency personnel if you believe that you may be suffering from a heart attack. It’s far better to be safe than sorry! The most common signs and symptoms are located in this section.
When it comes to chest pain, there are clear signs and symptoms that are serious and should be heeded.
If present, these serious signs and symptoms may indicate heart attack, pulmonary em-bolism, or angina. The major symptoms of each are outlined below.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms outlined below, it could be the sign of a se-rious heart condition. Seek medical care or call 911!
Heart attack is an interruption of blood supply to the heart. Angina is a lack of enough oxygen to the heart.
A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung.
There are other signs and symptoms that can be indicative of a serious heart condition. Oftentimes the signs and symptoms of a serious heart condition may be mistaken for indigestion, heartburn, or chest muscle pain. In this situation, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Use the decision tree on this page to help you better understand the severity of the situation. The decision tree will help you better understand what to do.
Act Right Away! If you or someone you know is experiencing chest discomfort or any symptoms of a heart attack, you must act immediately. According to the American Heart Association, you should call 911 within five minutes if you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack. When it comes to reacting to a heart attack, early care can save your life.
When serious chest pain strikes, we rarely have the opportunity to look for helpful health literature to guide us. That’s why it’s paramount that you spend some time with this decision tree right now. Make sure you’re familiar with the signs and symptoms of serious chest pain.
If the unfortunate should happen, you’ll be prepared and know what to do right away—this could save a life.
1. Do one or more of the following accompany your chest pain?
Yes — Call 911
2. Did a serious injury induce your chest pain?Yes — Call 911
3. Is your chest pain associated with a recent operation or illness that has kept you in bed?Yes — Call 911
4. Do you have a history of heart problems?Yes — Call 911
If you answered yes to any of these questions, call 911 immediately. There’s more information on chest pain on the following pages.
“If CPR is not provided, a person’s chances of surviving a heart attack decrease by seven to 10 percent with every minute that passes.”
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a serious heart condition, home treatment is not an option—call 911 immediately!
If, however, you’re experiencing symptoms of a less serious condition (like heart-burn/indigestion or chest muscle pain) there are a number of things you can do at home, and without the help of a physician, to feel better.
Sharp or stabbing pain that can be localized by the tip of a finger and reproduced by pushing on the spot is rarely cardiac in origin.
How do I know if I’m having a heart attack?
The most common symptoms associated with a heart attack include: a burning, crushing, and/or squeezing pain or pressure in the chest; pain in the arms, neck, back, and/or jaw; or pain that doesn’t go away or lasts longer than 15 minutes—check out the signs and symptoms on the previous pages.
Are heart attacks preventable?
By exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding all tobacco products, you greatly reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack. And while there are no guarantees, following these three simple guidelines will give you a much better chance of maintaining a healthy heart throughout the years.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
The risk factors for heart disease include cigarette smoking, a family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and living a sedentary lifestyle.
What are my chances of dying from a heart attack?
Each year nearly 1.1 million Americans experience a heart attack, and another 3 million patients are hospitalized each year for chest pain. Of those Americans who suffer a heart attack, each year, about half die. But here’s the good news—studies show that 75 percent of people survive heart attacks with little or no heart damage if they seek help within 60 to 70 minutes of the onset of symptoms.
Whether you currently suffer from chest pains or want to avoid them altogether, there are some important steps you should take now to prevent serious heart conditions in the future. Check out these steps below, and take action now.
Research has shown that aspirin is beneficial in the prevention and management of major heart problems. Daily dosage typically ranges from 75mg to 325mg, but it’s rec-ommended that a healthcare professional determine each individual’s correct dose. Here’s the rest of the story.
The use of aspirin on a regular basis to prevent an initial heart attack or other heart conditions has proven to be effective. However, since aspirin is not without risk in certain individuals, this prevention option should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
Research has shown that taking an aspirin during a heart attack (as long as the individual is not allergic) will significantly enhance their chance of survival.
The use of aspirin is also effective as a form of secondary prevention. In fact, taking aspirin has been shown to prevent the reoccurrence of heart attacks and angina.
In all instances, consult a healthcare professional to ensure your safety when using aspirin to prevent heart disease. The decision is between you and your healthcare pro-vider—together you can decide whether or not to make aspirin a part of your daily pre-vention schedule.
If you are taking aspirin to protect your heart, don’t take ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (such as Aleve) frequently, because these substances can block the anti-clotting effect of aspirin. It’s OK to take ibuprofen or naproxen on occasion, but don’t take these substances during the few hours before the aspirin.
“Approximately 3 million patients are hospitalized each year for chest pain.”
Minor cuts, scrapes, and punctures are common injuries that we experience from time to time. While the vast majority of these injuries can easily be handled at home, some are potentially serious, warranting medical attention. The first step in treating one of these injuries is to identify the type of injury you have.
Cuts. A cut slices the skin and is also referred to as a laceration.
Scrapes. Scrapes (abrasion) occur when several layers of skin are removed as a result of brushing against an abrasive surface. These injuries tend to be somewhat painful as nerve endings are exposed.
Punctures. Puncture wounds leave holes in the skin and are usually caused by sharp objects penetrating the skin.
In some cases, a cut, scrape, or puncture may be serious enough that it requires medical attention. If you experience any of the following, seek medical assistance.
The Right Way to Control Bleeding. When applying pressure to a cut, scrape, or puncture to stop the bleeding, DO NOT remove the bandage if it becomes saturated with blood. Simply apply a new bandage on top of the saturated one, and continue to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Change the bandage only after the bleeding has stopped.
Many cuts, scrapes, and punctures can be treated easily at home. The exception, how-ever, are those accompanied by uncontrollable bleeding, numbness, an inability to move extremities, and the signs mentioned on the previous page.
Treat cuts, scrapes, and punctures with self-care using the following simple steps. Try over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease your pain—heed allergies or other medical conditions.
“If a wound bleeds profusely for more than four to five minutes, call 911.”
In some cases bites and stings can be serious and deserving of immediate attention. The information in this section will help you determine what to do in reacting to a bite or sting.
Symptoms of bites and stings are easy to recognize. They include:
Insect/Spider Bites and Stings
At the site of the bite:
It’s important to contact a healthcare professional—perhaps including a call to 911—if any of the following signs or symptoms are present.
Wear Your Bracelet. Any person severely allergic to bites or stings should always wear a medic alert bracelet so that emergency medical personnel are aware of the allergy. For more information on allergy bracelets visit Medic Alert at www.medic alert.org.
For an insect, spider, or animal bite or sting, cleaning, bandaging, and keeping a close eye on the wound for infection is usually all that is required. Follow the home treatment advice below for a typical bite or sting.
“Insect allergies are most frequent after being stung by a bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant.”
Minor household burns are common in America, and can result from contact with a hot surface, steam, chemicals, electricity, or even friction. Fortunately, most burns are pre-ventable and easily treated at home. However, there are those that require more medical attention.
The first step in treating a burn is to determine what degree of burn has occurred. This is done by observing the depth of the burn. Different degrees of burns will exhibit different signs and symptoms.
First-Degree Burns (superficial). A first-degree burn affects only the outer layer of skin, and is generally treatable using self-care remedies. The skin will be dry, red, and painful to the touch. A sunburn is a good example of a first-degree burn.
Second-Degree Burns (partial thickness). A second-degree burn involves multiple layers of skin. The burned area typically becomes blistered, swollen, and may leak fluid.
Third-Degree Burns (full thickness). Third-degree burns involve all layers of the skin, and may damage underlying tissue and organs. These burns are often less painful be-cause nerves have been destroyed. The skin may be charred black, or may have a dry, white, or yellowish appearance.
Severe burns require the attention of a medical professional. Contact a healthcare professional in the following situations.
Leave Blisters Alone. Burn blisters should not be popped, squeezed, or otherwise tampered with as they provide an element of protection against infection. Resist the urge to pop blisters and let the burn heal on its own.
Many first-degree burns, and some second-degree burns, can be treated at home, while third-degree burns require the immediate attention of a healthcare provider. If you’ve determined that you have a first-degree burn or manageable second-degree burn, you may treat it in the following ways.
“Third-degree burns—those that may appear charred, dry, white, or yellowish—should always be evaluated by a medical professional. Call 911 immediately.”
Minor head injuries, such as bumps and bruises or cuts and scrapes, are part of everyday life for many people. Every head injury should be viewed with caution. Use the in-formation in this section to determine what form of care is most appropriate.
Because most minor head injuries are typically caused by bumps, cuts, or scrapes, the most common symptoms include:
While some head injuries can be treated effectively at home, there are, however, several conditions including concussions, blood clots, or skull fractures, which demand immediate medical attention. If you suspect a victim has also suffered a spinal or neck injury, do not move the person—it may cause further injury. Seek medical attention in the following situations.
Put A Lid On It. Perhaps the most important thing you can do to protect your head from injury is to wear a helmet. Whether riding a motorcycle, a bicycle, or engaging in any other recreational activity, always wear a helmet—the extra effort is worth the benefit.
If you’ve experienced a minor head injury, use the following self-care treatments.
Emergency situations that involve a loss of consciousness are always serious. And be-cause the causes of unconsciousness include heart attack, head injury, stroke, diabetes, or shock—just to name a few—an unconscious person always needs immediate medical attention. The following will help you treat an unconscious victim.
“More than 1.2 million Americans sustain head injuries annually.”
Most heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heat rash, are common conditions associated with rising body temperatures and overexertion in warm temperatures. Often, victims of heat-related illnesses have been working outside in high temperatures, are dehydrated, or are possibly elderly, very young, or suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Though most heat-related illnesses do not require professional medical assistance, some, such as heat stroke, are very serious and potentially life threatening. In this section we’ll take a look at the two most common heat-related illnesses: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is typically the result of dehydration through perspiration in warm tem-peratures. Symptoms will include:
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke—a potentially life-threatening medical condition. Heat stroke occurs when a person’s body is unable to keep itself cool, leading to body temperatures as high as, or exceeding, 105°F. There is no home treatment for heat stroke. If a person shows signs of heat stroke, seek medical assistance immediately—call 911. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
Heat stroke, when untreated, causes a person’s core body temperature to rise to or ex-ceed temperatures as high as 105°F. Such high temperatures can prevent a victim’s organs from functioning properly, leading to death. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, seek professional medical assistance immediately. Seek immediate medical assistance in the following situations.
Get Enough Water. If you are doing strenuous activity outside during hot weather, drink two to four glasses (16 to 32 ounces each) of cool fluids each hour. Avoid alcoholic beverages, they will dehydrate you.
Some cases of heat exhaustion can be treated at home. If, however, the victim exhibits any signs of heat stroke, seek medical assistance immediately. To care for a person suffering from mild heat exhaustion, follow the guidelines below.
As mentioned earlier, heat-related illnesses are, indeed, common conditions. But the fact is, they don’t have to be. By taking the following precautions, especially when working outside in high temperatures, your time in the sun will be much more safe.
“Between 1979 and 1999, more people died from heat-related illness than died from hurricanes, lightning, tornados, floods, and earthquakes combined.”
The quiz below is designed to test your knowledge on the information presented in this section. Use this quiz as a tool to better understand how to care for yourself and others.
The information contained in this guide is based on the best health information available and has been reviewed for accuracy. This information is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have any questions about managing your own health and/or seeking medical care, please contact a medical professional.
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