How to deal with an AF episode

As I'm new to this condition. What do you all do when you feel you're in AF? Carry on working, go home sick? Lie down quietly. Go to a & e/docs? I have no idea or advice yet. I'm definitely not in sinus rhythm at the moment (since last night) but it's just annoying rather than affecting the way I feel. What should I be doing?? Thanks in advance. Paula

14 Replies

  • Personally just used to sit/ lie down and ride it out. Depends on how I'll you feel. Get medical input if only phone or e mail. If short of breath or any chest pain then seek medical advice. Keep chatting we are a friendly bunch who support each other. Have you read info on AF website?

  • No. Will have a look. Chest pains mean something more serious I presume?

  • Not necessarily just general advice whether AF or not read as much as you can to help make informed decisions . We are all different even though we all have AF.

  • Could be, it is not wise to assume symptoms you have (in or out of AF) are caused by AF unless you regularly have them in connection with an episode. The best advice is to ask your Cardiologist/Arrhythmia Nurse (not usually your GP because they are sometimes woefully ignorant about AF) how long to wait before getting advice because many of us have had different advice and I think it depends a bit on what your general and Cardiac health is like and whether you are anticoagulated or not.

  • I'ma fan of flecainide pill in the pocket, which seems to work well for me to abort my episodes of AF. May be worth discussing with your doc - although you will need imaging of your coronary arteries to confirm no arterial disease

  • Hi Paula :-) when I go into a bad episode of AF I shake from head to foot and can't breath which can lead to feelings of panic (NO CHEST PAIN)

    AF and panic 'feed' off each other and I now know the best thing I can do if possible is to lay down, try to slow my breathing down with deep breaths and get my body to relax. I also loosen any tight clothing. If a bad episodes lasts for hours I have do get up and complete some jobs or take the dog out and again I try to stay calm and breath steadily.Other times I barely notice I am having an episode and carry on as normal again staying calm.

    So far I have come out of episodes without assistance.

    Luckily I had retired before the bad episodes started.

    We are all different, you will find what is best for you to get through the episodes.

    It can feel very lonely when you are having an episode but remember you are not alone, you now belong to the exclusive club of AFibbers :-) and others are experiencing the same thing.

  • Thanks. And believe me you've all been an absolute blessing !! 😊

  • General advise is to ride the storm UNLESS you have chest pain or pass out in which case A and E . A and E stands for accident and emergency and generally AF is neither. It is a chronic condition and should be treated as such by your medical team. Any treatment for AF is only ever about improving quality of life (QOL).

  • Hi Paula, It all depends on how you are feeling during the attack and I am only talking about PAF. Some people can carry on as normal when their AF strikes and even cycle or walk it off, if you feel ok when doing that then that's a good idea! Others find an attack (especially with tachycardia) totally disabling and it makes them feel really ill, faint, breathless, dizzy, tired, etc and they have no choice but to sit still or call for help.

    We are all different in how severe the attack affects us and I do envy those who can carry on as normal. I feel they come on this forum feeling they are great martyrs to carry on as normal and I have to say it does irritate me a little because all I can say to them is you are so lucky to have such mild attacks! However, it's not their fault as that's the worst they know AF to be and have no idea how others are so disabled by it. In a bad attack you just can't do anything that involves the slightest effort! I would struggle to walk from the kitchen to my lounge. AF in all our minds is only as bad as the worst attack we have ever had.

    When mine first started I felt sorry for myself if it lasted for two hours, then I would report on here that I'd had one that lasted 6, thinking how awful that was. Well, AF got worse to the point that it would last months and then how I envied those who only had attacks for 2 or 6 hours. I know from what others have written on this forum that people have it a lot worse than me and can struggle for hours in hospital, passing out a lot of times and struggling to keep conscious.

    My advice is just do what you feel you can, if it's really bad sit and try to relax and do deep breathing. If you feel you can carry on as normal then do that.

    Don't hesitate to call your surgery, or if it's outside of their working hours the 111 number for advice.

    We're all here for you on this forum, so do not hesitate to ask any questions or seek support when needed.

    Best wishes.


  • Thanks Jean

  • Hi Paula

    I generally get a bout for an hour or two every 5 or 6 days and like you "it's just annoying rather than affecting the way I feel". In the early days of my diagnosis I would rest & stress & hope it went away but then one evening I started a bout just as I needed to rush for a ferry. As it turned out that was one of my shortest episodes ever, so now when my chest gets that annoying feeling and my Alivecor/Kardia says I am in AF I go for a walk, usually up the steep hill that's at my door. As everyone will tell you, we are all different but pushing through with light exercise seems to work for me.

    The caveat here of course is that you must have your medication regime in place, particularly anti-coagulation.

    All the best


  • This is a great place to come for help and reassurance, but I'd say the truth is that each person's AF is unique to themselves and so there cannot be a "standard" way to deal with an episode.

    This thread offers proof of what I mean - doodle 68 speaks of shaking and struggling to breath during a bad episode, whereas creschendo looks to climb the steep hill nearby.

    For myself, I've had AF for just over ten years now and count myself lucky that my episodes (which don't come frequently, but tend to last a long time when they do - longest one so far , sixty hours) see my heart beating in the sixty to ninety bpm range. Consequently, I suffer from few of the typical symptoms and, if anything, tend to take longer walks and climb steeper hills when in AF because I've found this to be the best way of getting my heart beating normally again.

    So, it's a question of you getting to know how and, hopefully, why the condition affects you and adjusting your lifestyle accordingly.

    I started off by saying that AF is unique to each person who has it and I stick by that, because I don't believe any two cases of AF are exactly the same. However, the very strong likelihood is that there will be others on here whose symptoms are very similar to yours and so you can use them as an example until you know your AF well enough to be aware of what you can and cannot do while having an episode.

  • Hi Paula, when I used to have attacks of what I now know to be SVT (supra ventricular tachycardia), my heart would race, I would feel faint and quite ill. To my surprise I realised if I walked about it wore off quickly.

    When I later developed Afib, which left me feeling totally exhausted and limp, almost like having a really bad flu virus but without the fever, there was very little I could do but rest. Often I hadn't even been aware of having been in Afib, it was only the following exhaustion that alerted me to the fact I had had an episode.

    Basically we are all different but the two conditions for me do cause different effects.

  • I went into af today while visiting my GP for something else. He noticed straightaway took ecg which sHowed my heartbeat was 145 and straight away called an ambulance. I was then in A&E for 5 hours until it calmed down with the help of medication. I asked the GP, paramedics and consultant at the hospital the same question and they all said do not leave it longer than 1 hour when it is so fast and if PIP doesn't calm it down within 2 hours call for an ambulance. They all told me that leaving it too long weakens the heart which of course is a danger. Hope this helps.

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