‘It’s only asthma!’

This is something we hear a lot when it comes to the subject of asthma. During this blog we will look at why this tiny phrase is so damaging in the wider scheme of things.

Asthma is a condition that affects a lot of people in the UK however many people do not take asthma as seriously as they should, every year asthma causes more deaths than people realise.

Did you know?….

  • 5,400,000 people in the UK are being treated for asthma
  • 1,100,00 children (1 in 11)
  • 4,300,00 adults (1 in 12)
  • On average there are 3 children with asthma in every classroom
  • Every 20 minutes a child is admitted to hospital in the UK due to asthma
  • 3 people die in the UK every day because of asthma.

Asthma Definition

According to Asthma UK the definition of asthma varies depending on their experience with the condition. The ‘textbook’ definition of asthma is:

A condition that affects the airways –
the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.’

Asthma UK believes this is a definition that fits broadly, as your experience will affect how you feel about and see the condition. They say that, in particular, it will mean different things to different people in the following situations:

  • New diagnosis,
  • Does it run in the family?
  • Does your child have asthma?
  • Has your child been recently diagnosed?
  • The first time you witness someone in an attack.

Regardless of what it means to you, it is important that you understand how it affects sufferers and particularly the person who you are close to that suffers from this illness.

What Triggers an Asthma Attack?

Asthma is triggered by a whole range of triggers which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Alcohol,
  • Animals and pets,
  • Colds and flu,
  • Emotions,
  • Exercise,
  • Female hormones,
  • Food,
  • House dust mites,
  • Moulds and fungi,
  • Indoor environment,
  • Pollen,
  • Pollution,
  • Recreational drugs,
  • Sex,
  • Smoking and second hand smoke,
  • Stress and anxiety,
  • Weather.

What does an Asthma Attack look like?

During an asthma attack the muscles around the airways tighten, and the lining of the airways swells, both therefore making it harder to get the air in and out of the lungs. The third part of the effects on the airway is that mucus may form inside the airway and therefore make it even harder to get air in and out. On occasion, it can take a few days for these to build up and take effect on the casualty, or it can occur very rapidly.

These internal symptoms show themselves in the following ways:

  • Wheezing,
  • Coughing,
  • Tight chest or pain,
  • Breathless (taking breaths mid-sentence),
  • Faster breathing,
  • Rapid heartbeat,
  • Drowsiness,
  • Exhaustion,
  • Dizziness,
  • Pale, clammy skin,
  • Cyanosis (Blueing of the lips and fingertips),
  • Use of muscles in the neck and upper chest.

Asthma UK highlights how serious this condition is by stating that people shouldn’t feel that they are making a fuss by seeking help with an asthma attack or on behalf of an asthma sufferer, and says help should be sought at any time of the day or night.

How can I help someone having an Asthma Attack?

When someone is having, an asthma attack it is important the first-aider around them remains calm and reassuring at all times. The other key thing that a first-aider can do is to act quickly and assist the casualty in a calm and relaxed manner.

Although some asthma sufferers will have an individual action plan arranged by their doctor the following advice works in an emergency situation.

  1. Try to keep the casualty calm. (If a child, encourage them to sing their favourite song with you. Do not worry that it is not in tune, time or rhythm).
  2. Sit the casualty straight up – Do not lie them down (you could sit them on a chair the wrong way around so they are facing the back of the chair.
  3. Encourage the casualty to take their RELIEVER inhaler, (usually blue, and usually 2 puffs).
  4. If worried, or they are not getting better even after 10 puffs of their inhaler dial 999/112 for an ambulance.
  5. While awaiting the arrival of the ambulance, keep the casualty and yourself calm.

For your guidance, we have included links to videos that will show you how to correctly use an inhaler; we thank Asthma UK for these:

How to use a metered dosage inhaler

How to use an easi-breathe inhaler

How to use an accuhaler

How to use a turbohaler

How to use a small volume spacer

How to use a spacer with a child

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article on asthma.

The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and not to worry about making a fuss about someone’s asthma, you might just save their life.

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