What you should do if your family member or friend suddenly experiences a potentially life-threatening asthma flare? It is often scary to see someone struggling to breathe. All family members and friends of an asthmatic should understand about things to do during an emergency. Common bystanders may feel clueless, if they don’t have the proper training. Obviously, everyone should be able to perform emergency help and control the situation.
What to Do First
When you see someone experiences a severe attack, these are things you should do:
• Don’t panic. If you stay calm, you won’t further upset the asthma victim.
• Call his/her immediate family member or close friend, who may be more experienced in dealing with this condition.
• Make sure the victim stops all activities.
• Get the person to sit upright and don’t lie the person down. Don’t hug the person as it can restrict breathing and if the person uses tight clothing, loosen it.
• Ask him or her to use the rescue inhaler immediately. It may not be needed, but it’s much more dangerous to withhold essential medication when it’s really necessary.
• If you don’t see immediate improvement after giving him/her the rescue inhaler, continue to give the person one puff every minute for 5 minutes. If the person needs more medication after 5 minutes, immediately call 911. Don’t worry about setting off a false alarm or causing inconvenience, even when it is late at night.
• Provide positive assurances until help arrives.
• Quietly talk with your friend. During a severe attack, your friend could be frightened too, and in most cases unable to communicate those concerns well. Don’t freak out. Make sure friend your friend relaxed and let the drugs take effect. If you’re indoor, you could play soothing music on the stereo or if you’re outdoor, use a portable music player. By using the right music, you can help calming his/her emotional state significantly.
Long before dealing with an asthma flare, you may want to discuss with your family member or friend in how to determine if an ambulance call is necessary. Action plan should be defined clearly and covers all possible scenarios, including measures to be taken, it is also a good idea to take into account specific symptoms and peak-flow meter readings as an effective guideline whether an ER visit is needed. Lower peak-flow readings indicate inflamed airways. If you and those around you can’t determine how serious a flare is, you can ask the person to use the peak-flow meter by blowing on it and compare the readings against figures in the action plan.
If you see these symptoms, use the rescue inhaler and call 911 immediately, stop wondering whether an immediate professional help is necessary:
• The person has trouble breathing.
• The person has trouble talking.
• The person has a rapid heart rate.
• The person has bluish fingernails or lips.
Or if the person doesn’t have the above symptoms:
• The person experiences no improvement after using the rescue inhaler for more than five minutes or symptoms return very soon.
• The peak-flow reading drops to only 50 percent of the normal figures and doesn’t improve after five minutes of medication.
Even if you are a highly skillful driver, it is better to call 911, but of course, it is faster to drive the sufferer if the hospital is only a couple of blocks away. An ambulance is filled with everything that is necessary to manage a severe asthma flare effectively.
To fully prepare yourself for an emergency room visit, put a copy of the asthma action plan in an easy-to-reach place or bring it during a trip. Make sure it includes the medications names and dosages, this information is important for medical staffs and doctors at the ER. Also, don’t forget to have the insurance card handy to help speed up the administration process.
Rescue Medications for Asthma
If a close friend or family member has asthma, it is usually useful for us to know about the common medications an asthma sufferer takes. Take a couple of minutes now to understand whether the person has a short-term or a long-term rescue medication, or both. Asthma sufferers often bring two inhalers, one for rescue and one for control. It’s essential that you understand about the difference, since a control inhaler can’t help during an asthma flare. Learn the proper dosage and when a specific drug should be taken and how often the sufferer needs medication? Most people with asthma sufferer must inhale medication about once a day; while people with much milder cases can only take rapid-acting rescue medication for occasional flares. Know what medication your asthmatic friend takes during a flare, as using long-term control during an emergency, would be useless. Administering rescue medication is easy, even during an emergency, but it still necessary to train yourself in using them.
Rescue medications work well in relieving asthma symptoms and are often inhaled directly into the sufferer lungs, they can relax muscles around a constricted airway to relieve shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. They can work almost immediately, and their effects can last about six hours. Many rescue medications are sold as pocket-sized devices that are easy to use when a flare starts. Common rescue medications are:
• Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
• Levalbuterol (Xopenex)
• Bitolterol (Tornalate)
• Terbutaline (Brethine, Bricanyl)
• Pirbuterol (Maxair)
• Metaproterenol (Alupent)
Whatever your situation is, instruction on using a rapid-acting medication should also be written down clearly in the action plan.