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Translations:Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Health and Science/First Aid, Basic/46/en

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13. Know the difference between a heart attack, stroke, epilepsy, and simple fainting, and the treatment for each.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is when blood supply to part of the heart is interrupted causing heart tissue to die. Symptoms of a heart attack include severe chest pain, looking pale, sweating, and feeling sick. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and it is a leading cause of death for both men and women.

First aid includes the following:

  • Seek emergency medical assistance immediately.
  • Help the patient to rest in a position which minimizes breathing difficulties. A half-sitting position with knees bent is often recommended.
  • Give access to more oxygen, e.g. by opening the window and widening the collar for easier breathing; but keep the patient warm, e.g. by a blanket or a jacket
  • Give aspirin, if the patient is not allergic to aspirin. Aspirin inhibits formation of further blood clots.
    • Non-coated or soluble preparations are preferred. These should be chewed or dissolved, respectively, to facilitate quicker absorption. If the patient cannot swallow, the aspirin can be placed under the tongue.
    • U.S. guidelines recommend a dose of 160 – 325 mg.
    • Australian guidelines recommend a dose of 150 – 300 mg.
  • If it has been prescribed for the patient, give nitroglycerin tablets under the tongue.
  • Monitor pulse, breathing, level of consciousness and, if possible, the blood pressure of the patient continually.
  • Administer CPR if the victim is unconscious and non-breathing.


A stroke is caused by an interruption of the arterial blood supply to a portion of the brain. This interruption may be caused by hardening of the arteries or by a clot forming in the brain. Tissue damage and loss of function result. Onset of a stroke is sudden, with little or no warning. The first signs include weakness or paralysis, especially on one side of the body. Muscles of the face may be particularly affected. The victim’s level of consciousness varies from alert to unresponsive. Difficulty speaking or understanding language; dizziness; sudden, severe headache; distorted, dim or patchy vision are all symptoms of stroke.

If the victim has sudden onset of any 2 or more of these signs and symptoms, call an ambulance immediately. First aid for a stroke is mainly supportive. Special attention must be paid to the victim’s airway, since he may not be able to keep it clear.

  • Call an ambulance
  • Place the victim in on their side, with the affected side down
  • Act in a calm, reassuring manner, and keep any onlookers quiet since the victim may be able to hear what is going on.
  • Carefully monitor the victim’s vital signs and keep a log. Pay special attention to respirations, and pulse strength and rate (take the pulse in the neck).


Epilepsy, also known as seizures or fits, is a condition characterized by an abnormal focus of activity in the brain that produces severe motor responses or changes in consciousness. Fortunately, epilepsy can often be controlled by medications. Grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizure is the more serious type of seizure. Grand mal seizures may be - but are not always - preceded by an aura. The victim soon comes to recognize these auras, which allows him time to lie down and prepare for the seizure’s onset. A burst of nerve impulses from the brain causes unconsciousness and generalized muscular contractions, often with loss of bladder and bowel control. The primary dangers in a grand mal seizure are injuries resulting from falls and the convulsions as well as a cessation of breathing. A period of unconsciousness or mental confusion follows this type of seizure. When full consciousness returns, the victim will have little or no recollection of the seizure.

First aid is aimed at preventing the patient from injuring himself or herself. Nothing should be placed between the patient’s teeth for any reason. Never try to restrain a victim during convulsions; however, do not leave them alone.

Simple Fainting

Fainting is a self-correcting, temporary form of shock. It often is the result of a temporary gravitational pooling of the blood as a person stands up. As the person falls, blood again rushes to the head, and the problem is solved. Usually, the serious problems related to fainting are injuries that occur when falling down from the temporary loss of consciousness. Fainting may be caused by stressful situations.

If a person faints (is feels he is about to faint) do the following:

  • Lay victim down
  • Elevate feet
  • Loosen tight clothing
  • Maintain an open airway