Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Thursday, March 07, 2002

As a medical librarian, I come across some strange things. Here's my public service bit for the day. There is apparently a post making the rounds on the Internet claiming that in the event of a heart attack, a person can perform CPR on him/herself by coughing.

Yeah. Right. I thought that too. So I did some checking. Now where do I go whenever I come across an e-mail telling me to mail this "true story" to 10 of my friends in order to do some great deed? The Urban Legends Resource Page, of course. They've got a great write up on this one, including links to various agencies in the know.

Turns out there is a tiny grain of truth in it. Apparently hospitals do sometimes have people cough during certain cardiac procedures to help make sure they do not lose consciousness/go into a dangerous heart rhythm. Now, this was done in a hospital, surrounded by people who had the knowledge and ready access to medicines used to prevent heart death, while a patient was on a heart monitor and they could tell the patient when to cough. Someone probably heard about this and decided that it would work when a person was speeding down the interstate in a car alone. As the page above indicates, many people do not actually recognise a heart attack when it happens, but if they do, or if someone else does, the best thing to do is call 911, have the patient take aspirin (which has been proven to help in heart attacks), keep the person calm and still, and get the person under medical treatment immediately. In some cases, coughing could actually endanger the patient.

So please, the next time you get an e-mail that purports to be true, throws in a couple of well-known names (or variants) of advocating organisations, tells you something wonderful that you should spread to everyone you know, but doesn't list any specific proof, check them out on the above website or one of the other Internet hoax sites before forwarding the e-mail. Even if it does list a source, check that out, too. Don't accept a newspaper or newsletter as proof--often these things get printed in the regular media as well. In the case of the story above, it did make it into a support group newsletter before the error could be determined. You don't want to perpetuate something that's as insidious as a virus and potentially harmful in its information.

No comments: