Cardiac arrests can occur anywhere, including in the bathroom. This is because certain activities, such as taking a shower or using the toilet, can play a part in triggering cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest occurs from an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heart rhythm.

People may have a higher risk of cardiac arrest when they are in the bathroom. Certain bathroom activities, such as having a bowel movement or bathing, can stress the body.

This article explains why cardiac arrest can happen in the bathroom, its symptoms and treatment, and how people can help prevent a cardiac arrest.

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Using the toilet, taking a bath, or showering may cause cardiac arrest. This is because bowel movements and very cold or hot water can stress the body, causing an electrical malfunction in the heart that may lead to cardiac arrest.

Movement or doing intense exercises just before using the bathroom may also cause an additional risk of cardiac arrest in people with certain underlying conditions.

For about 1 in 3 athletes who experience a cardiac arrest, the episode occurs while they are resting.

Learn more about cardiac arrest.

Going to the toilet

When a person is having a bowel movement or is urinating, they unconsciously hold their breath while straining on the toilet. It can lead to a sudden increase in blood pressure, which stresses the heart.

This may result in cardiac arrest in people with acute coronary syndrome or other cardiovascular complications.

Using the toilet can also trigger a phenomenon called the vasovagal response. Bowel moments can put pressure on the vagus nerve, causing the heart rate to slow. In some cases, it may make people faint.

The vasovagal response may cause additional stress to the heart and lead to cardiac arrest.


Taking a bath in water significantly warmer than room temperature or immersing the body up to shoulder level may increase the body’s stress levels.

In people with underlying cardiovascular conditions, including heart disease or high blood pressure, this can increase the risk of cardiac events.


Similar to bathing, taking showers with too cold or too hot water can have a rapid effect on a person’s heart rate. While the body temperature quickly adjusts to the water temperature, it may stress capillaries and arteries.

This may cause complications, including cardiac arrest, in people with certain underlying cardiovascular conditions.


People may experience cardiac arrest after doing physical activity. This is typically rare in people without underlying cardiovascular conditions.

However, extreme levels of physical exercise can trigger cardiac arrest, even several hours after finishing the physical activity when a person is at rest.

While doing gentle to moderate physical exercise can help improve the general health of the heart, intense activity may trigger various complications in people with heart disease or atherosclerosis, including cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. Cardiac arrest is a life threatening condition and requires immediate treatment.

When cardiac arrest happens, the body’s organs do not receive any oxygen because the heart is not pumping blood around the body.

While some people use the terms interchangeably, a cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack.

During a heart attack, one of the arteries that bring blood to the heart becomes blocked, reducing or cutting the supply of oxygen and blood. If a heart attack is untreated, the heart begins to die from the lack of oxygen.

During a cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood. A person stops breathing normally and passes out with no pulse.

The symptoms of a cardiac arrest may include:

  • loss of consciousness
  • collapsing suddenly
  • gasping for air or inability to breathe
  • absence of pulse
  • no response to shaking or shouting

If someone is having a suspected cardiac arrest, people should immediately contact 911 or local emergency services and start CPR.

Learn more about CPR during cardiac arrest.

A person who experiences one or more of the following early symptoms of cardiac arrest should seek immediate medical attention:

People typically experience one or more of these symptoms in the hour before cardiac arrest. Some symptoms may even occur a few weeks before the cardiac event.

People with cardiovascular conditions who have any of these symptoms should also contact a doctor immediately.

If a person experiences cardiac arrest, they must immediately receive CPR.

If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available, people should use it to try to restart the heart of the affected person.

People should keep performing CPR until emergency medical personnel arrive.

If a person survives the cardiac arrest, doctors may give oxygen therapy to make sure the organs have enough oxygen while the person recovers.

Treatment also typically focuses on preventing brain damage by lowering body temperature using cooling blankets and ice packs.

In some cases, a person may also undergo extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment. It consists of pumping a person’s blood through an artificial lung, which removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen to the blood before returning it to the body.

If a person has a cardiac arrest, this means they have a higher risk of having another one in the future.

Doctors may recommend a person who has survived a cardiac arrest to undergo cardioverter implantation. These devices can detect serious heart rhythm problems and use electric pulses to manage dangerous arrhythmias.

There are several types of cardioverters. Doctors can recommend the most appropriate type based on a person’s needs and general health conditions. Types may include:

Certain lifestyle strategies can reduce the risk of cardiac events. These may include:

To reduce the risk of cardiac events when in the bathroom, people may consider practicing the following steps:

  • avoiding immersing the body in hot water over chest level
  • avoiding having extremely cold or hot showers
  • setting a timer when in the bathtub to avoid spending too much time in hot water
  • avoiding taking a bath after ingesting sleeping or relaxant medications
  • keeping a phone near in case there is a need to contact emergency services

Learn more about improving heart health.

Using the toilet or having very hot or cold showers can increase the risk of cardiac arrest in people with cardiovascular conditions. This is because these activities can stress the body and trigger sudden changes in heart rate.

People should seek medical attention if they experience unexplained dizziness, shortness of breath, or chest pain.