Cough CPR

The American Heart Association does not endorse "cough CPR," a procedure widely publicized on the internet.

During a sudden arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), a conscious, responsive person may be able to cough forcefully and repetitively to maintain enough blood flow to the brain to remain conscious for a few seconds until the arrhythmia is treated. This has been mislabeled "cough CPR," although it's not a form of traditional resuscitation.

Why isn't "cough CPR" appropriate in CPR training courses?

"Cough CPR" should not be taught in lay-rescuer CPR courses because it's generally not useful outside the hospital. In virtually all lay-rescuer CPR courses, the person's unresponsiveness signals an emergency. Unresponsive victims can't perform "cough CPR."

Are there situations when "cough CPR" is appropriate?

"Cough CPR" may be a temporary measure in settings such as the cardiac catheterization laboratory where patients are conscious and constantly monitored (for example, with an electrocardiogram machine). A nurse or physician can instruct and coach patients to cough forcefully every one to three seconds during the initial seconds of a sudden arrhythmia. But because it's not effective in all patients, it shouldn't delay definitive treatment.

AHA Recommendation

The best strategy is to be aware of the warning signs for cardiac arrest – sudden loss of responsiveness and no normal breathing – then call 911 and begin CPR.