How to Handle In-flight Cardiac Emergencies
As chronic diseases like heart ailments have become common across all age groups, incidences of in-flight cardiac emergencies have also become frequent; also in part due to a sharp rise in the number of air travelers. Many passengers find it very challenging to handle situations they normally don’t experience or have to deal with. Even though, there are no universal guidelines for managing in-air cardiac crises, all commercial flights are expected to have a first aid kit, portable oxygen and an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) on board. Today, Dr. M S Sandhu, Director, Cardiologyat Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, tells us how to handle in-flight cardiac emergencies.
In the absence of quick medical attention, cardiac arrests can prove to be fatal. But, the good news is effective Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or CPR immediately after the onset of a sudden heart attack can double a patient’s survival rate.
And, you don’t need to be a medical professional to perform CPR or give Basic Life Support (BLS). Anyone, whether you are a software engineer, a school going student, a web designer, or a milkman, can learn these simple steps and this maybe one of the most important things to learn in life.
So, the next time you are traveling or flying, beware of some symptoms that could point towards a heart attack, but are not limited to the following:
- Excruciating pain in either shoulder, jaw, or in the abdomen
- Shortness of breath and severe anxiety.
However, it is also important to remember that not every case of chest pain with the above mentioned symptoms is due to a heart attack.
Steps to follow to handle mid-air critical cardiac condition:
- Make the patient lie down on a flat surface.
- Check if the patient is awake and appropriately responsive to his name and to a touch. Do this quickly.
- If awake and responsive, keep the patient as calm as you can.
- Call for help or ask someone to find on-site or other emergency assistance, especially a flight attendant (they are trained in basic life support).
- Assess the patient for adequacy of breathing, check the pulse rate and measure blood pressure if automatic equipment is available and working.
- If the patient is awake and responsive, try to get information about his/her medical history.
- If the patient is stable and is breathing normally; give an aspirin tablet, crushed or whole.
If the patient is unresponsive and has no detectable pulse or spontaneous breathing, follow these steps:
- Open the airway by performing a head tilt-chin lift by kneeling on the side of the victim's head. Put one hand over the forehead and hold the chin with the free hand. Tilt the victim's head and lift the chin at the same time so that it appears as if he/she is 'looking up' (i.e. away from the feet).
- In case breath can’t be detected feel for the carotid pulse (side of the Adam’s apple in the neck). A carotid pulse is much easier to feel than a radial artery pulse (felt on the wrist). If there is no pulse, begin chest compressions and breaths at 30:2 ratio (i.e. 30 compressions per 2 breaths). The rescue breaths can be given with face mask/shield/handkerchief.
Once revived, ensure that the person rests in a recovery pose (on the side, lying down) till you get on-ground medical attention.
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