Breathing Problems and Asthma.

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Asthma: Understanding and Responding

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common and potentially life-threatening condition that affects the airways, the small tubes responsible for carrying air to and from the lungs.

How Asthma Occurs

When individuals with asthma encounter substances known as asthma triggers, their airways can react in the following ways:

  • The muscles surrounding the airways tighten, causing them to narrow.
  • The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and swollen.
  • Excess mucus or phlegm may accumulate, further narrowing the airways.

These reactions collectively result in difficulty breathing and the characteristic symptoms of asthma.

Asthma Severity

Asthma can range in severity from mild to severe, with varying signs and symptoms. In a moderate asthma attack, individuals may experience:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Distress
  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion

In severe cases, professional medical assistance may be necessary, often involving nebulisers, steroids, or both.

Managing an Asthma Attack

Individuals with asthma typically carry two types of inhalers:

  • Brown inhaler (preventative)
  • Blue inhaler (for treating attacks)

During an asthma attack, the person may have their own coping strategies. It's important not to interfere excessively, as they are struggling to breathe.

First Aid for an Asthma Attack

If you recognize someone having an asthma attack:

  • Locate their blue reliever inhaler.
  • Ensure they are seated and loosen any tight clothing.
  • Do not make them lie down.

If there is no immediate improvement after taking the inhaler, they should take one puff of their reliever inhaler every minute for five minutes. If symptoms persist or worsen, call 999 or a doctor urgently. Continue administering one puff of the inhaler every minute until help arrives.

In most cases, the inhaler will alleviate the attack, but if there is no improvement or if the situation deteriorates, activate emergency medical services without delay, even if the individual resists seeking further help.

If it is the person's first asthma attack and you are uncertain about what to do, seek immediate medical attention, as you may not have access to their medications for direct treatment.