Trainer Tips: Asthma
In an asthma attack, the muscles of the air passages in the lungs go into spasm. As a result, the airways become narrowed, which makes breathing difficult.
An asthma trigger is anything that irritates the casualty’s airway and starts off an asthma attack symptoms.
Triggers can include: food, exercise, animals, cold & flu, dust mites, weather and emotions.
How do we recognise an asthma attack?
- Difficulty breathing.
- Difficulty speaking, leading to short sentences and whispering.
- Distress and anxiety.
- Features of hypoxia, such as a grey-blue tinge to the lips, earlobes and nailbeds.
- Exhaustion in a severe attack. If the attack worsens the casualty may stop breathing and become unresponsive.
What to do
People with asthma usually deal with their own attacks by using a ‘reliever’ inhaler at the first sign of an attack. Most reliever inhalers have blue caps. Preventer inhalers have brown or white caps and are used to help prevent attacks. They should not be used during an asthma attack.
- Keep calm and reassure the casualty. Get them to take their usual dose of their reliever inhaler; use a spacer if they have one. Ask them to breath slowly and deeply.
- Sit them down in the position they find most comfortable.
- A mild attack should ease within a few minutes. If it does not, the casualty may take one or two puffs from their inhaler every two minutes until they have had 10 puffs.
- Call 999/112 for emergency help if the attack is severe and one of the following occurs: the inhaler has no effect; the casualty is getting worse; breathlessness makes talking difficult; the person is becoming exhausted.
- Help the casualty to continue to use their inhaler as required. Monitor them for vital signs – breathing, pulse and level of response – until help arrives.
- If this is the first attack and the casualty has no medication call 999/112 for emergency help immediately.
- If the casualty becomes unresponsive, open the airway and check breathing.