Asthma is a chronic condition that makes breathing difficult, as a result of inflamed or narrowed airways, or tubes that allow air to flow in and out of your lungs. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25.1 million people in the United States live with asthma, including young children and adults.
Although there’s no cure for it, asthma flare-ups can be managed by avoiding triggers, preventing symptoms with asthma medications, and being prepared to treat an asthma episode when needed.
Asthma triggers to be aware of
Asthma symptoms can appear when someone is exposed to possible triggers, meaning something they’re sensitive to that causes airway inflammation.
Common triggers include:
Allergens such as pollen and molds
Irritants such as smoke, fumes and dust
Medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen
Extreme weather conditions
A rescue inhaler can help control symptoms of an asthma attack
During an asthma attack, the small airways in the lungs narrow due to swelling and mucus production. Because airflow is restricted, a person with asthma might wheeze, cough, have trouble breathing, or feel chest tightness.
The symptoms of asthma range from having mild to severe difficulty breathing. A person with asthma will often use a meter-dose inhaler to help control these symptoms. Depending on the severity of an asthma attack, they might need help assembling and using their inhaler.
To use an inhaler without a spacer, take off the cap and look inside the mouthpiece to make sure there’s nothing in it. Then, follow these steps during an asthma attack.
Shake the inhaler. Shake it hard 10-15 times before each use.
Breathe out. Have the person breathe out all the way.
Breathe in. Have them place the mouthpiece between their teeth and close their lips around it to make a tight seal. As they slowly breathe in, press down on the inhaler one time, and have them keep breathing in slowly and deeply.
Hold breath. Have them take the inhaler out of their mouth, and if they are able, ask them to hold their breath for a slow count of ten.
Breathe out. Have them pucker their lips and breathe out slowly through their mouth.
Repeat if needed. If more than one dose is needed, repeat step 1-5. Replace the cap when done.
Asthma may lead to a medical emergency. So, always call 911 and get a first aid kit if the person doesn’t have their inhaler, doesn’t get better after using the inhaler, has difficulty speaking, or becomes unresponsive.
Be prepared for an asthma attack
If you or a loved one have asthma, it’s a good idea to create an asthma action plan. Talk with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan to help prevent and control asthma attacks.
May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has many resources that can be used year-round, including an online support group.
It’s always important to learn emergency care training for common medical ailments such as an asthma attack. Take a CPR, AED and First class near you to gain the knowledge and confidence to respond.