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What to do in an asthma emergency

 
With asthma affecting 1 in 7 children, it’s important to understand how to deal with a potential asthma emergency. Learning how to assess someone with asthma, treat the emergency and give them the ‘All OK’ can be achieved by following the simple asthma steps, using the acronym A.S.T.H.M.A.
With asthma affecting 1 in 7 children, it’s important to understand how to deal with a potential asthma emergency.

Learning how to assess someone with asthma, treat the emergency and give them the ‘All OK’ can be achieved by following the simple asthma steps, using the acronym A.S.T.H.M.A.
 

What to do in an asthma emergency

 

Assess

  • Assess whether the asthma attack is mild, moderate, or severe.
 
  • Mild symptoms: Short of breath, wheeze, cough, chest tightness.
 
  • Moderate symptoms: Loud wheeze, breathing difficulty, can only speak in short sentences.
 
  • Severe symptoms: Distressed, gasping for breath, difficulty speaking two words, blueness around the mouth.
 
  • If the person has severe asthma or is frightened, call an ambulance on 111.
 

Sit

  • Sit your child upright and stay with them. If their symptoms are mild, treat with 2 doses of reliever inhaler. If their symptoms are moderate or severe, move on to the next step.
 

Treat

  • Treat with 6 doses of any reliever inhaler. When possible, use a spacer.
 
  • Treat with 6 doses of reliever inhaler, one puff of medicine at a time, taking 6 breaths per puff.
 

Help

  • If not improving after 6 minutes, call an ambulance 111.
 
  • Continue to use the reliever inhaler - 6 doses every 6 minutes until help arrives.
 
  • Remember: 6 doses, 6 breaths, 6-minute wait. In this situation, you will not overdose the person by giving them the reliever every few minutes.


Monitor

  • If improving after 6 minutes, keep monitoring. If necessary, repeat further doses of reliever inhaler.
 

All OK

  • When free of wheeze, cough or breathlessness, your child can return to a quiet activity.
 
  • If their symptoms recur, repeat treatment and ensure they rest.
 
  • Remember: it is important to always see a doctor after an asthma attack.


Why follow an Asthma Action Plan


Following an Asthma Action Plan can help to manage your child’s asthma and help to prevent an attack.

An Asthma Action Plan helps by telling you what to do when your child’s asthma worsens, which medicines to use, and how much. If you haven’t got one already, ask your doctor or nurse to create one for you.

You can do all the right things for your child’s asthma and they still may have an asthma attack.

Sometimes extra assistance is needed and in an emergency, always remember that help is on hand.
 

Find out more


The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is New Zealand’s not-for-profit sector authority on all respiratory conditions including asthma.

The Foundation have recently released a new free online learning site to help parents and caregivers of children with asthma at: www.learnaboutlungs.org.nz.
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