Emergency Care for Urgent Situations: Asthma
Asthma is a medical condition that causes one’s airways to become inflamed, swell and then narrow as well as producing extra mucus making it difficult to breathe. It is a chronic medical condition, and actually is one of the most common chronic conditions in the US with close to 30 million Americans having it. Asthma can be quite dangerous and even life-threatening especially due to the fact that it interferes with breathing. The good news however is that you can be able to live with it with proper treatment. However, as we are always told, if you have asthma, then you should always be prepared for an emergency. You may have kept your asthma under control for months or even years, but as long as you have asthma, then you are always liable to suffer an asthma emergency. An asthma attack can occur at any moment and can be a quite terrifying moment to be in, both for the person having the attack and anyone close by. In such a situation, it is important to know how to proceed so that one can avoid any unwanted consequences. This article will therefore look to highlight how you should go about things when in an urgent situation concerning asthma.
The first thing we are going to highlight even before we get into it is that you need to come up with your asthma action plan together with your doctor. This will dictate how you will react to an asthma attack, including an emergency and it should be written down clearly. Your asthma action plan should be tailored specifically for you since every person is different and on top of indicating steps to take in case of an emergency, it should also contain your name, the name and number of personal doctor and local hospital, a list of your asthma triggers and symptoms, the name and doses of your medications as well as your personal best peak flow meter reading. Ensure that your family, close friends and even roommates know where your asthma action plan is to make it easy for them to find it during an attack. Also make sure that you update it regularly as your medications and triggers change so as to ensure it is as up-to-date as possible.
Having established your asthma attack plan, the first thing to do if someone is having an asthma attack is to check their symptoms. If their symptoms indicate that they are having an asthma emergency, then you should call 911. The symptoms of an asthma emergency include difficulties breathing and a feeling of being out of breathe even when not moving, trouble walking or talking, lips and fingernails turning blue, anxiety, loss of consciousness, a peak flow reading that is 50% of their personal best, tugging on the skin on their ribs in children among others. If you confirm that they are having an asthma emergency, the first thing to do is to call 911 as soon as possible. After calling 911, locate the person’s asthma action plan and if you find it, try to follow it if possible which includes giving them any medications indicated. If you don’t locate an asthma action plan, or they don’t have it, then you should proceed to offer them asthma first aid. This includes sitting them upright and loosening any tight clothing, assist them in using any asthma medication such as inhalers. It is important that you don’t use another person’s inhaler if they person having the attack doesn’t have theirs since the medicine may not be the same and there is also the risk that you may pass on an infection by using another person’s inhaler.
When you use an inhaler you should use the right procedure to ensure the medication is effective as well as ensuring that you give out a total of four puffs, with there being a period of one minute in between each puff. You can also use an inhaler with a spacer if possible or without if not. Ensure that the person having the asthma attack breathes out completely before putting the inhaler in their mouth. You should then seal their lips tightly around the mouthpiece of the inhaler. After delivering four puffs, you should wait four minutes and if you notice that the person still has difficulties breathing, then you should offer them another set of four puffs. Continue using the inhaler until the ambulance arrives, giving 4 to 8 puffs every 20 minutes if you see no improvement after the 2nd set of puffs. The ambulance should arrive within that time, but as you wait you should keep a close eye on the person and be attentive for signs of drowsiness which usually indicates that they are getting worse. You should also not assume that they are improving just because you are not hearing wheezing anymore.
Hopefully, the above discussion will help you as you know the signs of an asthma emergency as well as how to proceed in such a situation and as such avoid any severe consequences.