Supporting members with Asthma
What is Asthma?
Asthma affects the airways of the lungs. The lining of the airways becomes inflamed, there is an increase in mucus and the muscles surrounding the airways tighten. All these reactions cause recurrent or persistent episodes of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Not everybody will get all these symptoms at the same time and they can vary from one asthma attack to the next.
Symptoms are often more noticeable during the night or early morning, or when the person engages in an activity, gets an infection or comes into contact with an irritant. All of these can affect their airways, whether caused by exercise, a virus or airborne pollen. During an asthma attack, symptoms become worse as the airways constrict.
Asthma is the most common chronic condition of childhood. Some children with asthma lose their symptoms by the time they are adults. Others may find that their symptoms become milder. However, recent research has shown that the underlying condition does not go away and it is possible that symptoms may return in later life.
Living with Asthma
Some people with asthma may know what triggers an attack for them, but it is quite likely that they will not, as triggers can be very varied.
To help control the symptoms of asthma, medicines are prescribed, most commonly in the form of inhalers. There are two main groups of inhalers:
- Relievers (usually blue) – these devices help relieve asthma symptoms when they occur. Everyone with asthma should have a reliever.
- Preventers – these help to protect the airways and reduce the chance of getting asthma symptoms. These need to be taken as prescribed (usually morning and evening), even when the person is feeling well.
If an individual has asthma, make sure that you have all the details about their condition and their medicines from themselves and their parents. This will enable you to take it into account when planning activities, as some may trigger asthma symptoms in certain individuals. However, if asthma is under control, it should not hold anyone back. Try to include young people with asthma as much as possible, so that they do not feel isolated or that they are missing out.
What to do in an asthma attack?
1. Get them to take one to two puffs of their reliever inhaler (usually blue), immediately.
2. Get them to sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths.
3. If they do not start to feel better, get them to take two puffs of their reliever inhaler (one puff at a time) every two minutes. They can take up to ten puffs. Use a spacer if they have one.
4. If they do not feel better after taking their inhaler as above, or if you are worried at any time, call 999.
5. If an ambulance doesn’t arrive in 10 minutes and they’re still feeling unwell, repeat step 3.
If symptoms improve and you don’t need to call 999, they still need to see a doctor or asthma nurse within 24 hours.
*This advice does not apply to people (usually over 18s) using a Symbicort inhaler on the Symbicort SMART regime, who should discuss this with their doctor, asthma nurse or pharmacist at the time of their prescription.
An asthma attack must be treated seriously. If there is no medication to hand, or if the medication does not appear to have any effect, call an ambulance immediately.