As we head into the winter months, we can expect to have a drop-in temperature, which for a lot of us is not a problem, but for asthmatics this can be a trigger which can set off their asthma symptoms as they have very sensitive airways and cold, damp air entering can set them off into spasm.
Apart from cold, damp air, winter months also brings along an increase in colds and flu, and trying to avoid an encounter with these viruses is near impossible. These will often make asthmatics symptoms worse, although they are encouraged to have the Flu Vaccine to try and protect them. There is also an increase in mould spores due to the cold, damp air and these can be a trigger too and there are various other triggers to.
So, what is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease which affects the airways. There are various triggers which can cause an asthma attack to occur like dust, pollen, tobacco, exercise, stress & infection. When an asthmatic is exposed to one of these triggers which they are sensitive to, there are three reactions which can happen to the airways:
The muscles around the airways go into spasm and constrict.
The lining becomes inflamed and narrows the airways.
There can be a build-up of excessive mucus/phlegm which will narrow the airways even more.
Therefore, when an asthmatic is having an attack, it is quite traumatic and inevitably they are very scared, as not being able to breathe properly is very frightening. That's why it is so important that it is recognised and they receive immediate help and treatment.
How To Recognise Someone Who Is Having An Asthmatic Attack?
These are some of the symptoms that may be present when someone is experiencing an asthmatic attack :
Wheezing sound when they breathe in and out
Difficulty speaking, unable to make sentences, need to take a breath in the middle.
Pale, clammy skin
Grey/Blue lips and skin (if severe attack)
Use of neck and upper chest muscles to breathe
Signs of exhaustion if its a severe attack and prolonged
Conscious levels may reduce and in a prolonged attack they may stop breathing
What Is The Treatment?
Help the casualty to sit upright, leaning on a table or chair
If they have a reliever inhaler (usually a blue one - ask patient) help them to use it and use with spacer device if they have one. This can be repeated every few minutes if attack not easing.
Try to distract casualty from the attack- be calm, reassuring and talk to them
Call 999 for Emergency Help if the casualty does not have their inhaler or it is not having any effect.
Do NOT take the casualty outside as cold winter air can make the attack worse
Keep the casualty upright - even if they become too weak to sit up on their own.
Only lay them down, if they become deeply unconscious