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Asthma

Asthma

Introduction

In an asthma attack the muscles of the air passages in the lungs go into spasm and the linings of the airways swell. As a result, the airways become narrowed and breathing becomes difficult.

Sometimes there is a specific trigger for an asthma attack such as:

  • an allergy
  • a cold
  • cigarette smoke
  • extremes of temperature
  • exercise.

People with asthma usually deal well with their own attacks by using a blue reliever inhaler, however you may be required to assist someone having an asthma attack or having an attack for the first time.

Recognition features

  • Difficulty in breathing.

There may also be:

  • wheezing as the casualty breathes out
  • difficulty speaking and whispering
  • distress and anxiety
  • coughing
  • features of hypoxia, such as a grey-blue tinge to the lips, earlobes and nailbeds (cyanosis).

Treatment

Your aims during an asthma attack are to ease the breathing and if necessary get medical help.

  • You need to keep the casualty calm and reassure them.
  • If they have a blue reliever inhaler then encourage them to use it. Children may have a spacer device and you should encourage them to use that with their inhaler also. It should relieve the attack within a few minutes.
  • Encourage the casualty to breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Encourage the casualty to sit in a position that they find most comfortable. Do not lie the casualty down.
  • A mild asthma attack should ease within a few minutes of them using their inhaler. If it doesn't then assist them to use their inhaler (4x4x4) 4 puffs with a breath between every puff, wait 4 minutes and do 4 times
  • Monitor their vital signs - breathing, level of response and pulse.

Caution:

If this is the first attack, the attack is severe, the inhaler has no effect or the attack appears to be getting worse.

Dial 000 for an ambulance.