Quick action may help prevent an asthma attack from becoming an asthma emergency.
Signs you are having an ASTHMA ATTACK
- You have increasing wheezing, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath
- You are waking often at night with asthma symptoms
- You need to use your reliever again within 3 hours
When is it an ASTHMA EMERGENCY?
- Your symptoms get worse very quickly
- You have severe shortness of breath, can’t speak comfortably or lips look blue
- You get little or no relief from your reliever inhaler
Call an ambulance immediately:
Dial 000 Say this is an ASTHMA EMERGENCY
Not sure if it's asthma?
If a person stays conscious and their main problem seems to be breathing, follow the asthma first aid steps. Asthma reliever medicine is unlikely to harm them even if they do not have asthma.
Severe Allergic Reactions/Anaphylaxis
If someone has sudden breathing problems (e.g. wheeze, cough, hoarse voice) AND they are allergic to foods, insect stings or medicines:
Call 000 for an ambulance
Give adrenaline first. Use their own autoinjector (e.g. EpiPen) if available.
Do this even if there are no other signs or symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.
Then follow the asthma first aid steps.
If you are ever unsure about what you should do
CALL AMBULANCE IMMEDIATELY (DIAL 000)
Signs of mild-to-moderate allergic reaction:
· swelling of lips, face, eyes
· tingling mouth
· hives or welts
· abdominal pain, vomiting (these are signs of anaphylaxis for insect
WATCH FOR ANY ONE OF THE FOLLOWING SIGNS OF ANAPHYLAXIS (SEVERE ALLERGIC REACTION):
· difficult or noisy breathing
· swelling of tongue
· swelling or tightness in throat
· wheeze or persistent cough
· difficulty talking or hoarse voice
· persistent dizziness or collapse
· pale and floppy (young children)
ALWAYS GIVE ADRENALINE INJECTOR FIRST, and then asthma reliever puffer if someone with known asthma and allergy to food, insects or medication has SUDDEN BREATHING DIFFICULTY (including wheeze, persistent cough or hoarse voice), even if there are no skin symptoms.
First Aid for Asthma Children Under 12
Tremor (e.g. shaky hands) can be a side-effect of these medications. High doses can cause rapid pulse rate. Use it as needed for asthma symptoms. After the person is breathing normally again, do not keep giving extra doses.
No blue/grey inhaler available?
How to use other relievers when someone is having an asthma attack
Some people with asthma use a different reliever inhaler when they have asthma symptoms.
Which type of inhaler does the person have?
Blue/grey puffer (salbutamol) – follow the steps in the First aid for asthma ages 12+ and First aid for asthma CHILDREN UNDER 12 Airomir (salbutamol) Autohaler Bricanyl (terbutaline) inhaler Symbicort Turbuhaler (budesonide–formoterol) inhaler Duoresp Spiromax (budesonide–formoterol) inhaler BiResp Spiromax (budesonide–formoterol) inhaler Symbicort Rapihaler (budesonide–formoterol) puffer Fostair (beclometasone–formoterol) puffer
No spacer available?
Use a plastic drink bottle or paper.
How to make a spacer if needed
How to make a spacer using a plastic drink bottle
- Make a hole in the bottom of the bottle – no bigger than puffer mouthpiece.
- Shake puffer.
- Push puffer mouthpiece tightly into hole in bottom of bottle – keep puffer upright.
- Put the open top of bottle in person’s mouth and seal lips around it tightly.
- Press firmly on puffer to fire a puff into the bottle.
- (Follow instructions in FIRST AID FOR ASTHMA chart)
How to make a spacer from a piece of paper
- Roll up a piece of paper to fit tightly around the mouthpiece of the puffer.
- Shake puffer.
- Put the other end of the rolled-up paper tube in the person’s mouth and seal lips around it tightly.
- Keep the puffer upright.
- Press firmly on puffer to fire a puff into the paper tube.
(Follow instructions in FIRST AID FOR ASTHMA chart)
How to give blue/grey puffer without a spacer (for adults, when no spacer available).
Use only if no spacer is available.
- Remove cap and shake well
- Ask the person to breathe out away from puffer
- Place mouthpiece between the person’s teeth and seal lips around it
- Ask person to take a slow deep breath
- Press once firmly on puffer while person breathes in
- Slip puffer out of mouth
- Get person to hold breath for 4 second or as long as comfortable
- Breathe out slowly away from puffer
- Repeat 1 puff at a time until 4 puffs taken – remember to shake the puffer before each puff
- Replace cap.