Chest pain: When should you call 911?

With potentially devastating results, cardiologists urge everyone to not wait to call 911.

The line between being overly cautious and not wanting to cause a commotion can be potentially dangerous.

For people experiencing chest pain or any minor discomfort, the sensation may be a passing annoyance and gone in a few minutes. But it could also be a sign of something serious to come.

The question then becomes: When do you call 911 for chest pain?

The answer is very straightforward: If you’re having symptoms where you think you might be having a heart attack, call 911.

These symptoms don’t have to be the traditional “crushing” chest tightness with pain down the left arm. The symptoms may come on suddenly and be subtle at first before worsening.

The emergency medicine technicians in the ambulance will have the training and knowledge to begin initial treatments while en route. They also have the experience and familiarity with local hospitals’ capability and proficiency to treat heart attack.

This also avoids the potentially devastating incident of experiencing cardiac arrest while in the car — whether while driving or being driven.

Early signs of a heart attack

  • Sudden onset chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

While women can experience the same symptoms, they are more likely to feel the lesser-common symptoms:

  • Nausea (accompanied by vomiting)
  • Back and jaw pain
  • Shortness of breath without chest pain
  • Chest pain repeatedly coming and going