First Aid: Asthma

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It causes the airways to narrow and swell and they may produce extra mucus making breathing difficult.

It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults.

What Causes Asthma?

Infographic about asthma triggersas described in the textContact with allergens, certain irritants or exposure to viral infections as an infant or in early childhood when the immune system isn’t fully mature have been linked to developing asthma. Chemicals and dusts in the workplace may also play a significant role in adult-onset asthma. So ensuring that you comply with COSHH controls and requirements for face fitted RPE will vastly reduce exposure in the workplace reducing the risk of illness later in life.

Common triggers include:

  • cigarette smoke
  • exercise
  • colds and viruses
  • pollution
  • pet hair
  • dust mites

People may have only one trigger, or they may have several – no two people’s asthma is the same.

How Is Asthma Treated?

Hand reaching for a blue inhaler on a tableCurrently there is no cure for asthma, though it can be kept under control using simple treatments such as inhalers, small devices that allow for medicines to be breathed in. Though some people who struggle to control their asthma may also be prescribed tablets to help.

Inhalers help in two ways; they can relieve symptoms when asthma attacks occur (reliever inhalers), and they can also help with stopping symptoms before they start (preventer inhaler).

Usually a reliever inhaler is blue and is used when asthma symptoms come on to quickly relax the muscles in the airway. A preventer inhaler is usually brown and contains a low dose of steroid medicine to help keep down inflammation and swelling in the airways.

Someone having an asthma attack may be displaying one or all of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Wheezing/whistling breathing
  • Coughing a lot
  • Breathlessness, difficulty in walking and talking
  • Fast shallow breathing

They may also recognise themselves that their reliever inhaler is not working properly, or they are having to use it more than every four hours.

If you recognise these symptoms and it looks like the person needs assistance, try and keep calm, encourage the person to sit or stand in a comfortable upright position and if needed assist them in taking their reliever inhaler every 30-60 seconds up to 10 puffs. If there is no improvement after 10 puffs, call 999 or 112 for an ambulance.

Learn how to implement COSHH assessments in your workplace to help reduce the risk of adult-onset asthma with our Control of Hazardous Substances Online Training – save 10% off for April only with the code ‘coshh10‘.

first aid training infographic

Make sure you’re always prepared for an emergency with our First Aid Training – to book your place on this life-saving course, simply get in touch!

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