|Asthma attacks cause the muscles of the air passages to go into spasm, making it very difficult for the asthmatic to breath, particularly to exhale. Attacks may be triggered by an allergy or by stress; for example, being involved in an accident. Sometimes the cause of the attacks for a particular suffer is never identified. There is evidence to suggest that asthma appears to be in increasing in frequency, or at least in diagnosis.
An asthma attack should not be underestimated.
While the preventive treatments are very effective,
and the drugs to relieve attacks usually work very
well, left untreated, a serious attack can be fatal.
The strain of a serious asthma attack can cause the
breathing to stop or the heart to cease beating. You
should be prepared to resuscitate.
- Reassure the victim as this will have a positive effect on his breathing.
- Help the victim into a sitting position, leaning slightly forward, as most of people with asthma find this an easier position for breathing.
- If the victim has a medication, enable him to use it. Inhalers are the main form of treatment.
If this is the first attack, the medication does not work within 5 minutes, or the victim is in severe distress, then call an ambulance. Help the victim to take the medication every 5-10 minutes.
If the attack eases and the person finds it easier to breathe, he will not need immediate medical attention but should advise a doctor of the attack. A person will often be very tired following an attack so it is best to ensure that he is accompanied home to rest.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- History of condition (although some people may not realize that they are asthmatic and the first attack may be a sever one)
- Difficulty in breathing, particularly breathing out
- Wheezing or otherwise noisy breathing
- Inability to speak
- Pale skin and potential blueness. Particularly around the lips, caused by lack of oxygen
- Distress. Dizziness, and confusion as it becomes harder to get oxygen into the body
- Unconsciousness and then breathing stopping
USING AN INHALER
Known asthmatics are usually prescribed an inhaler, a device that administers a measured dose of drugs inhaled directly into the lungs, where it will have a near-instant effect.
Young children may find it hard to use ordinary aerosol inhaler and will need a spacer instead. Medication is put into the end of the spacer and the child breathes normally to take this in.
Children under the age of four will usually require a face mask to use with the spacer as they cannot coordinate their breathing to inhale the drugs. If a member of your family is an asthmatic, make sure that everyone understands the importance of knowing where the inhaler is and that there is always enough medication in the house.