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Emergencies And How To Meet Them

( Originally Published 1921 )

There are certain definite emergencies that arise in cases of suffering from heart trouble about which the sufferer himself and his friends should be instructed. These are, attacks of shortness of breath, attacks of palpitation, attacks of pain, a hemorrhage from the lungs, and attacks of great feebleness of heart action.

Shortness of breath is so important as a sign of heart trouble that it would be impossible to describe the treatment of it without describing the treatment of every condition that is found in people with heart trouble. But when a person is taken with a sudden attack of difficult breathing and a physician is not available, there are certain things that can be safely done by those around him. In the first place, the heart should be relieved of all distress that may be caused by tight clothing or pressure upon the chest. Pressure upon the heart from the inside of the body is much relieved by causing the person to sit up, which allows the heavy organs, such as the liver and stomach, to fall away from the chest, thus giving the heart more room. Then the person should be supplied with an abundance of fresh air. If there are unnecessary people around, only those should remain who are needed. After loosening the clothing and making the person sit upright near an open window provided there is no good reason for not doing so the remedies that the sufferer is supplied with should be used as directed by his physician. Small doses of nitroglycerin never do harm and often do much good. Soothing remedies, such as mild anodynes, often allay nervousness 'and remove discomfort, thus making the labored breathing more bearable and even relieving it. If there are no medicinal remedies at hand, the use of alcoholic stimulants, or of hot tea or coffee or even hot water, may help.

During the attack the sufferer should, as far as possible, be kept perfectly quiet. In the meantime, the physician should have been summoned, because, as I said above, the labored breathing is an important matter and should never be left to amateur treatment except in emergencies.

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