First-Aid 101: Asthma

For parents, a minor asthma attack still causes fear and anxiety. If you are an adult with asthma, you already understand the need to be prepared for an asthma attack at all times.

Having the right materials and medications on hand is pivotal in addressing an asthma attack when it is triggered.

Triggers and Causes of Asthma

While there is no cure for asthma, the symptoms can be dealt with by avoiding triggers and using the proper medications. Asthma can be triggered by the following:

  • Colds and infections
  • Heat or humidity
  • Cold weather
  • Allergens such as dust mites and mold
  • Dander
  • Smoke from tobacco
  • Strong perfumes and odors
  • Laughing or crying too hard
  • Medications
  • Some forms of exercise, including some sports

Because asthma has so many triggers, it is important to identify what triggers your asthma specifically. Once you have identified the source of your asthma symptoms, avoid them. If infections cause your asthma to worsen, make sure you get a flu shot annually. Whatever the asthma trigger is, write down a plan with your doctor to determine the best ways to avoid triggers and severe episodes.

First-Aid Kit Must-Haves for Asthma

Your custom home first-aid kit is going to need supplies for asthma if you, your spouse or child in the household has been diagnosed with asthma. Keep the first-aid kit in a designated location where everyone can reach it. Stress to your children the importance of maintaining an orderly and updated first-aid kit.

Your asthma first-aid kit should include the following items:

  • Inhaler spacer – A spacer is a long tube that attaches to an inhaler. Putting the mouth directly on the inhaler and then breathing in is not an efficient way to receive medicine. Attaching a spacer to an inhaler effectively administers more medicine to the lungs than using an inhaler without it.
  • Medication canister – Depending on what triggers your asthma, the doctor will administer canisters of medicine for you to inhale when you are experiencing an asthma attack. Keep an extra vial or two in your homemade first-aid kit in case of emergency. Make sure to use them before they expire and replace them with new ones as you finish them.
  • Inhaler – The inhaler is the device that administers the medication you specifically need. Store an inhaler that is clean and in good, working condition in your kit.
  • Asthma action plan – Every person living with asthma should have an action plan, which is divided into three zones: green, yellow and red. Each zone indicates how you’re feeling. Green means you’re normal, yellow means you’re experiencing light asthma symptoms and red means you may have an asthma flare up. Provide instructions of medicines you take, asthma triggers, emergency contact numbers and any other information so that another individual may assist you if a flare up occurs.

Some asthma first-aid kits marketed online contain these items, including medication canisters of albuterol or one of its brand-name versions such as ProAir HFA or Proventil HFA. This medication may or may not treat your asthma specifically, so make sure your prescribed medication is in the kit if you choose to buy a premade asthma kit online. Otherwise, all of the listed items provided in this section can be prescribed by your doctor.

Natural Supplements That Can Help Asthma

An asthma attack can be a very sobering experience, especially if you do not have the necessary first-aid items on hand. In any event, it is important to remain calm and make do with what you have.

Try the following natural asthma remedies when you find yourself in a pinch. Do not rely solely on these items, as using an inhaler or seeing a doctor immediately are preferable.

Deep breathing exercises – While attempting to take deep breaths may seem hard to do when experiencing an asthma attack, doing so can prevent hyperventilating. Taking deep breaths also helps you calm down, which reduces anxiety and tightness in the chest.

Caffeinated tea or coffee – Caffeine in tea and coffee can help open up the airways to your lungs, much like the asthma medication known as theophylline. Drink warm coffee or caffeinated tea to address asthma attack symptoms if you cannot find your inhaler.

Eucalyptus oil – Put eucalyptus oil into an oil diffuser and inhale the vapor. Doing so helps with breathing problems. However, keep in mind that you should use oils that are high in quality and only if you are not triggered by chemical odors and concoctions. If a diffuser is not available, put a few droplets into a cup of water and inhale the mixture.

Mustard oil – Not to be confused with mustard essential oil, the mustard oil that can help ease asthma symptoms comes from pressing mustard seeds. The resulting oil contains isothiocyanates, which can be mixed with salt and spread on the chest a few times daily.

How to Take Care of Asthma

If you or someone you know is experiencing an asthma attack, you must remain calm and act quickly. Most cases of asthma can be dealt with from home if you have all the materials needed. Follow these steps to address an asthma attack at its onset:

  1. Follow the person’s asthma plan as outlined by his or her doctor. This consists of the green, yellow and red stages. Each has its own set of guidelines and appropriate responses.
  2. Sit the person down in an upright position, which is the optimal position for freely breathing.
  3. Attempt to calm the person down and prompt him or her to start taking deliberate, deep breaths.
  4. Follow directions for administering asthma medication or using an inhaler.
  5. If the person does not have his or her inhaler on hand, use an inhaler from your first-aid kit. Do not use another person’s inhaler, as the medication in it may not be appropriate for the person you are helping.
  6. Shake the inhaler.
  7. If a spacer is available, attach the inhaler to it for maximum medicine inhalation.
  8. Have the asthma sufferer exhale fully.
  9. Place his or her mouth around the space mouth piece tightly.
  10. Press the inhaler one time.
  11. The person should inhale through the mouth and hold breath in for 10 seconds.
  12. Repeat three more times, waiting a minute between each puff.
  13. Call for an ambulance or transfer the person to his or her doctor’s office if difficulty with breathing persists.

When to Go to the Hospital for Asthma

An asthma attack can be easily treated once it is determined you have asthma and you get the appropriate medications to handle an attack. If you have not yet been diagnosed with asthma, you need to see a doctor for professional intervention if you exhibit any of the hallmark symptoms, which have been listed in the first section of this guide. Visit a doctor if you think you have asthma, especially if you have been coughing, wheezing or having shortness of breath for a few days.

You should visit a doctor for asthma if:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing exacerbates rapidly.
  • Use of a quick-relief inhaler gives you no relief.
  • You experience shortness of breath when conducting minor physical activity.

Call for an ambulance if the asthma attack is severe and greatly minimizes your ability to breathe in a short period of time.

If you have already been diagnosed with asthma, see your doctor occasionally to make sure you are managing your asthma well.

Follow up with your doctor regarding the state of your asthma:

  • If the conditions or attacks get worse over time.
  • To monitor asthma progress in order to keep it under control.
  • To review and calibrate treatments based on progress or lack thereof.

Staying in touch and communicating with your doctor significantly reduces chances of an attack or keeps the conditions from getting worse. Be vocal with your doctor regarding your asthma symptoms, especially when you feel as though something is odd or out of the ordinary.

Related Article: Preventive Health Care for Children

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