First Aid for Asthma
There are few things so alarming as not being able to catch your breath. Panic grips you, you suck in all the air you can, but your breathing has been reduced to a light wheezy sounding gasp.
This is what it’s like to have an asthma attack.
It’s one of the scariest experiences to go through but understanding first aid for asthma can give you a more detailed understanding of how to help someone who is going through an asthma attack.
What is asthma and what causes it?
Asthma is the result of the air passages to the lungs narrowing through muscle spasm, swelling of the mucous membrane and increased mucus production in the lungs.
This causes the airways to narrow, making it difficult to breathe and trapping air in the lungs as the person finds it increasingly difficult to breathe out.
Asthma attacks can be caused by a myriad factors including changes in weather, smoke, exercise, pollens and air pollutants, medications, colds and flus and even additives and preservatives found in some foods.
What does an asthma attack look like?
An asthma attack can be mild, moderate or severe. But the person experiencing the attack could show symptoms such as a dry cough, wheezing when they breathe, and shortness of breath particularly when talking.
More severe cases may involve showing signs of cyanosis – a bluish coloring of the tongue, skin or mouth or a drawing in of the spaces between the ribs and above the collarbone as a result of trying to draw in breath. They could also collapse and fall unconscious.
If someone has been formally diagnosed with asthma, they will have an asthma management plan that could include preventative care and reliever medications.
Preventative care are medicines given to asthmatics to take on a regular basis to help to management and prevent asthma attacks.
Reliever medications are puffers or inhalers that are prescribed to asthmatics to reduce the effect of the symptoms of an attack.
What to do if someone is having an asthma attack
If the person is conscious, ask them if they have an asthma management plan and if they have their medications with them and follow these steps;
- Sit them in an upright and comfortable position
- Reassure the person and help them to administer their asthma medication with the 4 x 4 method – so 4 puffs of the reliever over a period of 4 minutes.
- The person should rest and if possible, receive oxygen from a trained professional
- If there is little to no improvement call 000 or 112 and continue to administer the puffer through the 4 x 4 method.
If the patient has collapsed or is unconscious, then you should;
- Call 000 if they are unable to use their medications
- If oxygen is available have a trained person give the patient oxygen through a mask
- If breathing stops, follow the DRSABCD basic life support process. You can check out our blog here.
For severe asthma attacks you will need to administer CPR with greater force in order to inflate the lungs.
Asthma is one of the most common respiratory conditions in Australia with 11.2% of Australians reported having asthma in 2017 – 2018. In the same period there were 38,792 hospitalisations for asthma.
Learning how to help someone having an asthma attack means you’ll be able to help the 1 in 9 Australians who have asthma.