What to Do if You Have Chest Pain

What to Do if You Have Chest Pain

 

Angina is the medical term for chest pain. Chest pain is the result of a reduced blood supply to your heart muscle. It can be a warning sign of a heart attack or problems with a recent stent.

 

Warning signs that you need treatment

Men

Women

  • Chest discomfort described as pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Chest discomfort described as pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Discomfort in your arm(s), back, jaw, neck or stomach
  • Discomfort in your chest, back, neck, shoulder, jaw or lower chest or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath for no reason
  • Shortness of breath for no reason
  • Sweating
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness, unusual fatigue or tiredness

If you have diabetes, you may not have chest discomfort or pain. You may have unusual fatigue, nausea and profuse sweating.

 

What to do and when to seek emergency treatment

Follow these instructions if you have any warning signs of a heart attack or angina.If at any time your chest discomfort or pain does not improve or it gets worse even with nitroglycerin, call 911 and seek emergency treatment. Do NOT drive yourself to the hospital because you may be having a heart attack.

  1. Sit down and rest before using nitroglycerin.
  2. If you have nitroglycerin tablets, put one tablet under your tongue and let it dissolve. Do not swallow the tablet. If you use nitroglycerin spray, spray it into your mouth towards the back of your throat.
  3. Rest and wait 5 minutes. Take a second tablet under your tongue or use the spray if you still have chest discomfort or pain.
  4. Rest and wait another 5 minutes. Take a third tablet under your tongue or use the spray if the chest discomfort or pain has not gone away.
  5. If you have taken 3 tablets or sprays and your chest discomfort or pain is still present after 15 minutes, call 911 and seek emergency treatment. Do NOT drive yourself to the hospital because you may be having a heart attack.
  6. If you have aspirin, chew one adult 325 mg tablet or 4 baby aspirin.

 

Why call 911?

  • 911 dispatchers are trained to locate you quickly and assist you in starting some treatments.
  • In many areas, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) can perform an ECG to get a tracing of your heart rhythm. This can be sent to the hospital for a doctor to read and to help the Emergency Department prepare for your arrival.
  • EMS has medicine to help treat you before you even reach the hospital.
  • Do NOT drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital in a private car because you may be having a heart attack or your condition could worsen on the way to the hospital.

 

© 2015 – July 30, 2019, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team if you have any questions about your care. For more health information, call the Library for Health Information at 614-293-3707 or email: health-info@osu.edu.