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How Can You Help Someone Having an Asthma Attack?

written by: Jennifer Gonzalez • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/26/2011

Witnessing a person having an asthma attack can be a very scary situation. With so many people suffering from this condition, it's important to know the proper way to step in and help if the situation calls for it. Learn how you can help someone having an asthma attack.

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    What to Look For

    Over 20 million people suffer from asthma and asthma related symptoms in the United States. That's 1 out of every 15 Americans. Asthma is also the most commonly diagnosed chronic illness in children and teens. Twenty million is a lot of people, and this means that anyone around us could be a possible asthma sufferer. Because of this, it's important for all of us to know how to help someone during an asthma attack. Although an asthmatic will know how to take care of themselves in the instance of an asthma attack, sometimes an attack can leave them out of control and unable to care for themselves. This is where a bystander can be the difference between life and death for this person.

    How can you help someone having an asthma attack? A person having an asthma attack may cough, wheeze, appear short of breath, have bouts of rapid breathing, have trouble talking, have a blue tint to the lips, have a sudden pale complexion, and complain about a feeling of tightness in the chest. If you are around someone that is showing signs of an asthma attack, you should be quick to take action and help.

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    How Can I Help?

    If you notice a person is having an asthma attack, quick action is needed. The first thing you should do is assess the situation. If the asthmatic is in distress and is unable to care for themself you will need to help them to overcome their attack. This can be a scary situation for anyone but you must remain calm throughout the entire duration of the attack, no matter what may happen or how severe the attack may seem. If you stay calm this will help them to remain calm which is a key factor in getting an asthma attack under control. Panic will only make it harder for the person to get their breathing under control. Help the person get into a comfortable upright position and have them take slow, deep breaths the best they can. Ask the person if they have their asthma inhaler with them, if they are unable to talk you will need to look for the inhaler on your own. Give them one puff, with minute breaks in-between puffs until breathing improves. If the person does not have medication you will need to call 9-1-1 right away, and keep them as calm as possible until help arrives.

    While you are waiting for help to arrive, talk to the person in distress and let them know what is happening. Explain the steps you have taken to help them and tell them that help is on the way for them. This will help them to stay calm and focus on getting their breathing under control. Never leave them unattended while you are waiting for help. After paramedics have arrived, brief them on the situation and on the steps you have taken to help. This will help them get a better understanding on the situation and what they need to do to properly treat the person.

    Always remember to remain calm, and to keep the person in question as calm as possible. Doing this will help to keep a scary situation from getting out of control.

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    References

    Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=42

    Disabled World: http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/asthma-attack.shtml

    LiveStrong.com http://www.livestrong.com/article/17422-someone-having-asthma-attack/