Cough CPR: Don’t Do It

An well-meaning email circulating on the net claims that coughing might just save your life if you’re suffering a heart attack.

The science behind it is questionable, and some sources say it could actually kill you.

Here’s the original e-mail:

Date Captured: 3/8/2002

THIS IS NOT A JOKE – It may help you to save YOUR OWN LIFE one day.††† Please read and pass on.† Excellent to know about:† If you’ve taken CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) Classes, they may not have taught you this new procedure which can be done on YOURSELF if you experience a heart attack while you are alone

The Johnson City Medical Center staff actually discovered this and did an in-depth study on it in our ICU.† The two individuals that discovered this then did an article on it ….had it published and have even had it incorporated into ACLS and CPR classes.† It is very true and does work.

It is called COUGH CPR.† A cardiologist says it’s the truth.† If everyone who gets this sends it to 10 people, you can bet that we’ll save some lives along the way.

Let’s say it’s 6:15 p.m.and you’re driving home (alone of course), after an unusually hard day on the job. You’re really tired, upset and frustrated.†† Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to radiate out into your† arm and up into your jaw. You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far.

What can you do? You’ve been trained in CPR but the guy that taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.


Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, this article seemed to be in order.† Without help, the person whose heart is beating properly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.

However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously.

A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.

A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.



Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and 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.

Tell as many other people as possible about this, it could save their lives!

From Health Cares,Rochester General Hospital via Chapter 240s newsletter “AND THE BEAT GOES ON

It’s never a good sign when the source an e-mail cites claims it has nothing to do with it. That’s the case with Rochester General Hospital, who’s newsletter is quoted as the source for this procedure: they say they never wrote about it.

Further research determined that such a procedure such as “Cough CPR” exists, but its effectiveness is questioned by folks in the know. And even then, it’s only administered in hospitals by doctors. It’s not something you want to be doing yourself.

The Red Cross says there is not enough evidence to back up the procedure, and doesn’t teach it.

The American Heart Association says could be useful, but it’s not actually CPR since the individual needs to be conscious. It does not teach the procedure and notes that the only time coughing is used in any way as part of a procedure is in the hospital under a physician’s care.

It’s formal position on what to do when you think you’re having a heart attack is: “The best strategy is to be aware of the early warning signs for heart attack and cardiac arrest and respond to them by calling 9-1-1. If you’re driving alone and you start having severe chest pain or discomfort that starts to spread into your arm and up into your jaw (the scenario presented in the Internet article), you should pull over and flag down another motorist for help or phone 9-1-1 on a cellular telephone.”

The wind up is this: don’t do cough CPR. If you want to know help yourself or others suffering a heart attack, check out the Red Cross or AHA Web sites and don’t forward this email.

These sites offer debunkings of this e-mail:

  • A through debunking that puts this one to shame. They figure out the source of the e-mail and go into more detail on the dangers of the alleged procedure (including that bit about killing you if you cough when you shouldn’t have).
  • Urban Legends @ Another good debunking that goes into the history of the e-mail and talks with some experts.