Cough CPR – is there any truth behind it?

Healthcare professionals have expressed concern that the advice could result in a delay in patients contacting the emergency services. 

Chloe Dawson
6 November 2018
coughing man cpr

‘Cough CPR’ has become an internet sensation – but is there any truth behind it?

The Resuscitation Council, British Heart Foundation nor the American Heart Association endorses “cough CPR” – a coughing procedure which has been widely publicised on the Internet.


Healthcare professionals have instead expressed concern that the advice could result in a delay in patients contacting the emergency services.

The Resuscitation Council UK state the ‘incorrect advice’ is loosely based on a few published case reports of people with a sudden cardiac arrest being able to maintain a heartbeat, and therefore a circulation, by repeated vigorous coughing – so-called ‘cough CPR’.

They add that cardiac arrests usually causes loss of consciousness within a matter of seconds, giving a person no warning. The correct advice for anyone who thinks they may be having a heart attack is to call immediately for an emergency ambulance and, whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive, follow advice from the ambulance call handler.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the correct treatment for a sudden cardiac arrest and by attempting ‘cough CPR’ they could make their condition worse.


‘No medical evidence’.

Senior Cardiac Nurse Christopher Allen tells the British Heart Foundation; “The absolute priority when you think you or someone else is having a heart attack is to call 999. This way, paramedics can assess and aid you, and you’ll get to hospital as fast as possible. There is no medical evidence to support ‘cough CPR’, which suggests you can help yourself by coughing vigorously if you think you’re having a heart attack and are alone.

“A heart attack is when the blood supply to your heart muscle is interrupted; this is most commonly due to a blood clot.

“A heart attack can lead to a cardiac arrest, when your heart stops pumping blood around your body. You would become unconscious, and without immediate CPR (chest compressions and rescue breaths), you would die.

“If you are still conscious (and you would have to be to do ‘cough CPR’), then you are not in cardiac arrest and therefore CPR is not needed, but urgent medical help is vital.


“The ‘cough CPR’ myth has been circulating the internet for a while now, especially on social media sites such as Facebook. If you come across it, please avoid spreading it any further and consider letting the person who posted it know that there’s no truth in it.”

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