Asthma is a condition that inflames the airways, making it difficult to manage normal breathing. There are a wide variety of ‘asthma triggers’ such as dust and fur from pets. These nuisances cause the body to release histamine, which inflames and narrows the airways. It usually takes a course of medication to alleviate the symptoms of an asthma attack. A small amount of training on the treatment protocol can go a long way in helping a sufferer.
One of the main symptoms of an asthma attack is an overall feeling of breathlessness. The resulting narrowing of the airways will also cause the chest to tighten up, whereby the sufferer may even be clutching on this region of the body. Bouts of coughing can accompany the above symptoms, alongside ‘wheezing noises’, which are caused by a blockage when breathing in and out.
Cyanosis is also quite common. This is visible by the skin taking a grey / blue appearance, and may also be evident in the extremities like the lips and finger tips. These symptoms are similar to other serious breathing disorders; therefore it is important to talk to the casualty and those around them to work out if they suffer from the condition.
The first port of call when treating a casualty is to sit them down, and allow for a period of rest. This is by no means the cure; however the sufferer will increase the pressure on the respiratory system by standing up, or by being in an agitated state. The next step after recognising an ‘asthma attack’ is to search for the sufferer’s medication. This usually takes the form of a small blue / brown cylinder, which should be carried at all times. The casualty should be encouraged to draw two puffs from this, every two minutes, for a maximum of ten puffs. The emergency services should be called if there is no access to medication, no improvement, or after ten puffs from the inhaler.
As with most conditions, the treatment protocol does not always go entirely to plan. The main issue that arises is insufficient access to the sufferer’s medication. This may be because they have forgotten to take it out with them, or possibly as a result of not being diagnosed with the condition. The inhalers are vital in alleviating the symptoms of an attack. A casualty’s breathing will become more and more laboured without medication, up to a point where they could even suffer from a cardiac arrest. Those who have received first aid training need to be prepared to start cardio pulmonary resuscitations (CPR) in the event of a cardiac arrest.
Luckily there appears to be a new vaccination on the way, which could help stop asthma attacks all together. It has been dubbed the ‘supercharged’ vaccine as it fires electrical pulses through the skin, directly into the cells within the immune system. This then naturally increases the amount of helper cells, which fight against the harmful effects from mites and house dust. It may well be in the early stages, but this could be the answer that asthma sufferers have been searching for.
Bill Casserley is an experienced first aider, who truly believes “life is for learning”. Could you spot the signs of asthma? If not then visit the first aid training courses blog @ http://www.train-aid.co.uk for video tutorials.
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