If I'm having chest pain, should I call 9-1-1? Chest pain can be caused by a variety of issues – ranging from mild to life-threatening – so how do you know when it is truly an emergency?
Most people know that chest pain is a sign that you may be having a heart attack. But, it can be difficult to distinguish when chest pain means you should seek immediate medical attention.
Heart Attack Warning Signs
The American Heart Association (AHA) has identified heart attack warning signs including:
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Other signs: cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
Heart attack symptoms can be sudden, or they can gradually build over a short period of time. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing a heart attack.
Can you recognize a heart attack?
About Chest Pain
Chest pain is the most common symptom associated with a heart attack. What some may not realize is that "pain" can be described in a number of ways, and often chest pain feels different depending on who you ask. This is why it can be difficult to decide when to call 9-1-1.
The AHA refers to chest pain as chest discomfort and describes the feeling as pressure, squeezing, pain or fullness in the center of the chest. Some patients even describe it as feeling as if an elephant is sitting on your chest.
Ultimately, it is most important to call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is experiencing chest discomfort with or without the other symptoms. Calling 9-1-1 can save a life, as local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are prepared with advanced life-saving support to help a patient experiencing a heart attack. They can also alert the hospital that a patient is on the way, saving precious time when treating a life-threatening medical issue like a heart attack.
Discomfort in Other Areas of the Body
In addition to chest pain, patients can often feel pain or achiness in the jaw, shoulders, neck, back or arms during a heart attack. Women, in particular, may experience back or jaw pain and shortness of breath.
It is important not to ignore these signs, as calling 9-1-1 may save your life.
Other Heart Attack Signs
Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort is considered a sign of heart attack. Other common signs are breaking into a cold sweat, nausea and lightheadedness/fainting.
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