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Article Type: Blog

Chest Pain? Here's When to Call an Ambulance

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Chest pain isn't uncommon, and most everyone has experienced it at some point in their lives.  Although conditions like heartburn don't require immediate medical treatment, there are cases when it's more serious and you need to call an ambulance and get help right away.

Here are some tips you can use to know what to look for and when to call for help.

Signs to Watch For

Unfortunately, people often put off calling an ambulance or heading to the emergency room when they experience chest pain because they believe it's something else, like indigestion or a pulled muscle.

If you're having a cardiac event, every second count in saving your heart.  Once the damage is done, it's impossible to repair.  Unlike other muscles in your body, those in your heart don't grow back.

It's always best to err on the sign of caution when it comes to chest pain or if your symptoms look like a cardiac event.  Here are the symptoms to look for.

Cardiac Event Symptoms

It's well known that chest pain is the most common symptom associated with a heart attack, but it's not the only one.  It can also present in different ways.  It may not be localized in your chest and can sometimes feel like it's coming from your back, left arm, left shoulder, neck, jaw or even a tooth. You may also only feel pain in those other areas without any chest or back pain, but it will likely feel like it’s radiating from your chest or back.

Other symptoms to watch for:

  • Clamminess or sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

If any of these symptoms come on suddenly, they are a strong indicator that you're experiencing a cardiac event and you should take them very seriously.  Trust your body - it will tell you when something is seriously wrong.

Don't take any unnecessary chances with your health.

If one or more of these symptoms quickly develop, call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the emergency department. By attempting to drive yourself to the hospital you’re not only putting yourself in additional danger but also those around you on the road. And the EMTs have life-saving skills that you may need on the way to the emergency department.

Other Serious Conditions That Can Cause Chest Pain

Many other non-life-threatening conditions and diseases can present in similar ways to a heart attack, but some are life-threatening and should also be treated as soon as possible by calling 911. 

  • Angina presents almost identically to a heart attack and indicates an underlying issue with your heart, usually coronary heart disease (CHD).
  • Blood clots in your lung can also cause chest pain and should be checked out by a doctor to rule out any complications.
  • Dissecting aneurysm is another life-threatening condition that may be diagnosed instead of a heart attack. If you have a known issue seek immediate medical attention.

For more information on conditions that may seem like a heart attack but are non-life-threatening, learn more here. To find the AdventHealth Emergency Room near you, visit our location finder.

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