In the last 30 years the UK has seen some breakthroughs in the treatment of asthma and life-threatening incidents of asthma attacks have decreased. However, someone still suffers a potentially life-threatening asthma attack every 10 seconds in the UK. As pollen is a common trigger for asthma it is important that as many people as possible are aware of how to recognise an asthma attack and know how to help as we make our way through spring and into summer with trips to the park and walks in the countryside.
Asthma is a condition which causes the lining of the airways to become sensitive to a ‘trigger’ such as pollen, dust or animal fur. Exposure to their trigger causes a person’s airway to swell, spasm and secrete a sticky mucus as well as tightening the bands of muscle around the outside of the airway. This causes the person to experience difficulty breathing, often with a wheeze when breathing out, dizziness, anxiety, exhaustion and sometimes collapse. They will appear pale and frightened and may be shaking.
Speed is of the essence when dealing with an asthma attack, as the longer the attack lasts the more difficult it is for the person to administer their medication. First, check with the person that they are suffering an asthma attack and if so what their trigger is. If they do not have a diagnosis of asthma and are experiencing severe breathing problems, call an ambulance urgently. If they do have asthma, remove the trigger if possible and sit them down leaning forwards. Help them to find their reliever inhaler and allow them to use it as they need. If the inhaler is not effective or not available, again, call an ambulance. Reassuring the person throughout this experience will help them to relax and the attack pass quicker.
If the person becomes unconscious they must be placed in the Recovery Position to maintain their airway, or CPR commenced if they are not breathing properly. In either case an ambulance must be called urgently.
Statistics taken from Asthma UK website - https://www.asthma.org.uk/about on 17/05/1