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Heart Attack Information for Paddlers

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DISCLAIMER: The following information is not intended, nor should it be assumed to be, a substitute for formal training in First Aid treatment and procedures. This information is presented to raise awareness of some medical conditions which can arise on canoeing, camping or hiking trips so that participants may better prepare themselves for all eventualities. The information presented is not intended to replace advice or instructions given by trained professional medical personnel. Information herein is gleened from various professional medical resources including the US Navy On-line Hospital web site, the American Red Cross web site and other reliable resources. It must be realized that improper or inadequate treatment of injuries can result in damages that sometimes are greater than doing nothing at all. Whenever possible and practical the assistance of trained, professional medical personnel should be summoned to administer treatment for serious injuries. The nature of outdoor recreation is such that injuries sometimes occur in remote areas far from available professional assistance. The information in this section is intended to be a helpful guide for treatment of injuries in such cases when getting professional help is not immediate and the nature of the injuries requires prompt attention. Marc McCord is not a trained medical practitioner, and makes no claim of expertise in treatment of injuries. Marc McCord and Southwest Paddler are not responsible for improper treatment of injuries and resulting damages that may occur.

Surviving a Heart Attack When Alone

Many times, a heart attack begins when a person is alone, or is in the presence of others who may not know how to assist him or her in the critical few seconds at the onset when quick and effective action needs to be taken. When a person starts to feel the heart beating improperly, and begins to feel faint, that person only has about 10 seconds before starting to lose consciousness.

The following information is not guaranteed to work, but in many cases it can help stabilize the heart attack victim until professional medical assistance can be obtained.


  • Start coughing very aggressively and repeatedly, taking a deep breath between coughs. The cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing phlegm from deep within the chest.

  • Take a deep breath and cough every two seconds without letting up until help arrives, or until the heart has stabilized and returned to a normal rhythm. Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs, and coughing movements squeeze the heart to keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way heart attack victims can get to a hospital or other location where professional medical assistance can be obtained.
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    Copyright © 1998-2014, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.