We are asked this question a lot, many people think heart attack and cardiac arrest are the same when in reality they're very different.
While heart attack can lead into a cardiac arrest the starting point for the two are vastly different.
Heart attack is a circulation problem where the blood can't get around the body as easily because a blood clot or narrowed artery is stopping the heart from working effectively. As often the blood can continue to travel around the body to some extent, people can remain conscious and continue to breathe though this will become difficult and often people will experience symptoms such as dizziness and feelings of faintness among other things.
You can read more about heart attacks here
Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem. Your heart works on electrical impulses to make it beat in the correct order to move the blood around the body. In the case of a cardiac arrest the electrical impulses have come out of sync or have stopped completely. When this happens no oxygen can get around your body to your brain and you will become unconscious and stop breathing very quickly.
In either of these situations you should call 999 for an ambulance if they are breathing and awake sit them in the W position and take advice from ambulance control.
If they are not breathing start CPR
I get asked this question on nearly all, if not every first aid course that I ever run. Of all the scary things we talk about during the course of the day this is the one that still strikes fear into the hearts of the participants.
You can see the look on their faces change when we start talking about giving mouth to mouth resuscitation, some look disgusted, some look unsure but no one ever looks happy.
Since the discovery of the HIV virus and the stigma that has attached itself to the transmission of this disease it has been on everyone's radar of things to watch out for.
As we all know science and medicine have come on a long, long way since the discover of the virus in the 1980's. Back then no one really knew anything about it, other than it was deadly. They weren't sure how easily it was transmitted. Whether just breathing the same air was enough for you to become infected with the virus.
Thankfully now we know an awful lot more than we did nearly 40 years ago.
We now know that most people diagnosed with HIV in the UK acquire the virus through unprotected vaginal or anal sex.
We know that other body fluids, like saliva, sweat or urine, don't contain enough of the virus to infect another person.
We know that although there is still no cure for HIV there is medicine effective to stop you becoming infected if you think you have been infected through a high risk activity. Giving mouth to mouth resuscitation is not considered a high risk activity, even if there was blood around the casualties mouth. Although body fluids like blood can pass through broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes it's very rare for this to lead to infection.
We know that these medications are so effective the lifespan of someone living with HIV is near enough normal and their quality of life is as good as a person living without HIV.
HIV has NEVER been transmitted through mouth to mouth resuscitation before. EVER.
Does that mean that you're expected to give rescue breaths every time?
No, giving rescue breaths is still a choice, the aim of this blog isn't to make everyone give breaths every time but it is to educate people about the level of risk involved.
Why are rescue breaths so important anyway? I thought we didn't have to do them?
Rescue breaths help to ensure there is enough oxygen in the blood stream to keep the brain and the rest of the vital organs alive as best as possible until the professionals arrive to take over. The brain tissues start to die after as little as 3 minutes without oxygen. The longer the lack of oxygen continues the more of the brain becomes damaged. This can decrease the chance of survival or make it more likely the casualty will be alive but with brain damage that can cause physical and or mental deficits for the surviving casualty.
Are there other risks?
There are other diseases that can pass on through giving mouth to mouth resuscitation such as Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and Herpes. However this risks of these illnesses passing on are very low. And these very low risks can be further lowered with the use of a face shield during mouth to mouth.
You can find these in and around first aid kits. You can also purchase little Keyring versions of these for when you're on the move.
If you see someone having an anaphylactic emergency, this may have happened to them before in which case they may have with them an Adrenaline Auto Injector (AAI)
There are a few different brands of these AAI's such as EpiPen, Jext and Emerade to name a few. All these devices work by injecting a dose of adrenaline into the system to slow down the bodies over reaction.
Chances are unless you've been hiding under a duvet for the past few weeks, no judgement here (just jealousy!) you've heard a lot about anaphylaxis on the news.
Tragically lives are lost each year because of this over reaction of the immune system.
Most, if not all parents are very aware of anaphylaxis as there seems to be a childhood epidemic of allergies at the moment. Particularly to that deathly little legume... the peanut!
No, Peanuts aren't nuts, they're actually part of the pea family. I know, confused us too!
What lots of people don't understand of forget is that allergy is a sliding scale with anaphylaxis being at the nasty end of it and intolerance being at the not so nasty end of it.
There is however one thing that everyone is allergic to.... If you manage to make it all the way to the end of this I'll reveal the answer. #getreading
What is Anaphylaxis
Ok, so imagine your immune system being a bit like guards around a castle. They're on patrol all the time just waiting and watching for any signs of attack from an outside invader.
Now if a foreign solider came along you'd expect them to go into attack mode to deal with the intruder. Well this is how your immune system normally works. So this is what a normal reaction looks like to something that could be harmful.
Back to the soldiers around the castle.
If you have anaphylaxis your soldiers are on super high alert, a small animal moves in the undergrowth and they launch a full scale attack, cannons, arrows the whole lot! Bit of an overreaction? There's anaphylaxis.
What are the signs?
How to treat an anaphylactic emergency
Check out our how to use an epipen blog if you're not sure how to do it.
As the seasons start to change, the leaves go golden, mornings become more crisp and asthmatics everywhere collectively sigh.
The change of the seasons means it's more likely their asthma symptoms are going to worsen.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is an allergic reaction that takes place in the lungs.
There are lots of "triggers" to asthma that are individual to the person, they may include things like:
But they just need their pump thing don't they?
"oh, it's just asthma! What are you moaning about?"
Just asthma? JUST ASTHMA!
Did you know Asthma kills 3 people per day in the UK... 3 people every day somewhere in the UK will lose their lives to "just asthma".
I'm going to pause here and let that sink in.
Still think it's "just" asthma...
No more Just Asthma
Asthma is a Breathing Problem. Oxygen = Life
I'm not sure why some people have decided that a breathing problem isn't cause for serious concern.
If you're going to learn only one thing from this blog post I'd like it to be that Asthma is life threatening and should be treated as such.
What to look out for
Signs that someone is having an asthma attack include:
How to help
If you think someone is having an Asthma attack
If you made it all the way to here then you've learned why more people need to be aware that asthma can and will kill.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.