This boy’s results did show a certain pattern, making it diagnostic for a rare condition called Brugada symdrome.
But that’s what happened to a nine-year-old boy from Turkey, as a case report published in the journal Pediatrics detailed. After taking a bite from a large hot dog, the boy experienced sudden cardiac arrest, a deadly occurrence when your heart suddenly stops beating.
The boy was safely resuscitated, and doctors noticed something strange on his EKG scan. Doctors ran an ajmaline test, in which they inject a sodium channel blocker called ajmaline into your veins to see if that affects the reading on an EKG. This boy’s results did show a certain pattern, making it diagnostic for a rare condition called Brugada symdrome.
Brugada syndrome is a genetically inherited condition that causes abnormal beating rhythms of your heart. Most people don’t know they have it—it’s often symptomless—until an EKG picks up on the abnormal rhythm. But it’s potentially life-threatening, as the abnormal rhythms could trigger sudden cardiac arrest.
Patients with Brugada syndrome typically experience cardiac arrest when they have a high fever, drink alcohol, or simply sleep at night. While rare, another potential trigger is by stimulating your vagal nerve, which passes through your neck and chest and to your abdomen.
That’s what doctors think triggered the cardiac arrest in the young boy: When he took a large bite of his hot dog, it stimulated his vagal nerve, causing the sudden cardiac arrest.
Cardiac arrest is incredibly deadly—only 1 in 10 survive—but the boy’s life was saved. Doctors implanted a defibrillator in his heart to shock it back into beating if it were to stop again.
Now, you probably don’t have to worry about a big bite of food causing cardiac arrest—Brugada syndrome in general is super rare, affecting an estimated 5 out of 10,000 people worldwide—but you should make sure you know what to do if you see someone experiencing the deadly heart condition.
First, call 911. Then look for an automated external defibrillator (AED), which can help shock the heart back into beat. If none are around, start CPR. You don’t need to give rescue breaths—just use chest compressions, pushing at a rate of about 100 to 120 beats per minute. You can use the beat of Stayin’ Alive to keep count.