With the weather changing and more pollen being released into the air, a lot of people prone to asthma might experience an asthma attack. An acute asthma attack is an emergency and can be fatal if severe enough. As informed citizens, we should know what to do when one of us gets an acute attack of asthma.
Call for help
As we discussed, an acute attack of asthma is an emergency and can be rapidly fatal. In no time at all, this person might land up in a condition called respiratory failure. So call the ambulance at 102 or 911 now.
Give them their inhaler
Help the person sit upright comfortably and loosen tight clothing. Most asthmatics carry their inhaler around all the time. You can even use a borrowed one if a person does not have his/her own inhaler. When a person gets an attack, help them take three puffs of the inhaler. In case there is little or no improvement, repeat the process every five minutes till help arrives. In case of a severe attack, you can give six to eight puffs every five minutes.
As soon as the paramedics arrive, get the person to a source of oxygen. Oxygen needs to be given at 8L/minute in order to maintain the oxygen levels in the blood.
Administer nebulized drugs
Nebulization is a process where a liquid is converted into a fine vapor which people with asthma can inhale. Nebulized drugs reach the smallest airways and dilate them, thus allowing better breathing. Salbutamol and Terbutaline are the two drugs commonly used for this purpose. A major limitation of nebulization is that it requires a special apparatus known as a nebulizer. However, many people who have severe asthma do have one at home. Put 2 ampoules of salbutamol (each containing 5 mg salbutamol) into the nebulizer and switch it on. Next, put a mask on the patient’s face. Typically, the patient should be relieved in 10-15 minutes.
Consult an asthma specialist
Any person experiencing an acute asthma attack should consult a respiratory medicine specialist for proper control of asthma. People with poorly controlled asthma should be put on a course of steroids to begin with. Long term management would include inhaled steroids and beta 2 agonists. Some people may require low doses of oral steroids.