World Health Day is a perfect time to reflect on how climate change affects human health. The effects of this warmer world have been seen in an increasing number of asthma cases, with the oldest and youngest generations being at risk for developing these diseases. Mainly because they’re not able to adapt as quickly when faced with new challenges like pollution or weather patterns that drive changes from year-to-date conditions into future years’ ends.
A few tips can help you manage your condition while also taking steps towards a healthier tomorrow!
It is estimated that at least 2 million Australians have asthma. Up to 16% of children are estimated to have asthma in Australia. The majority of people with asthma do not have an action plan and many do not carry their reliever medication with them. People with asthma have very sensitive airways. An asthma attack is caused by spasms or narrowing of the bronchioles (air passages) in the lungs. During an episode, air passages become narrowed by muscle spasms, swelling of mucous membranes, and increased mucous production.
Although the exact cause of asthma is still unknown, exposure to certain toxins, such as smoking during pregnancy is linked with the condition.
Main Factors that can Cause Airways to Narrow
- The layer of muscle surrounding each bronchiole constricts or tightens, causing the air passage to become narrower
- The lining of each passage, being very sensitive, becomes inflamed and swollen
- More than usual amounts of mucus are produced in each bronchiole that contributing to the narrowing of the airways
The above may cause coughing (varied), wheezy breathing (not always), tiredness, difficulty speaking, chest tightness, and shortness of breath or rapid breathing. The casualty may also become very distressed because of difficulty in breathing.
Every person’s asthma is different and not all people will have the same triggers.
Triggers can include:
- Viral respiratory infections
- Exposure to known allergens, eg: dust mites, pollens, animal dander, moulds
- Exposure to chemicals or other occupational sensitisers
- Exposure to irritants, eg: cigarette smoke, bush fires, perfume
- Drugs, eg: aspirin, ibuprofen, and beta-blockers
- Foods, eg: nuts, seafood
- Food additives – sulphite preservatives, colourings, metabisulphite, monosodium glutamate (msg)
- Changes in the weather, exposure to cool air
How to Assess Asthma Attacks
Mild Asthma attack:
- Soft wheeze
- Minor difficulty breathing
- No difficulty speaking in a sentence
Moderate Asthma Attack:
- Persistent cough
- Loud wheeze
- Tightness in the chest
- Obvious difficulty breathing
- Able to speak in short sentences only
Severe Asthma Attack:
- Very distressed and anxious
- Gasping for breath
- Unable to speak more than a few words in one breath
- Pale and sweaty
- May have blue lips
- Little or no improvement from reliever medication
- Feeling anxious and distressed
Asthma Medication (Bronchodilators)
- Used to relieve symptoms: relaxes tight muscles around the airways
- Common names: Airomir, Asmol, Bricanyl, Epaq, Ventolin, Atrovent
- They mainly come in two forms of delivery devices:
- Puffer colour: Blue – Grey (refer to image)
- Inhaler – Turbuhaler device – white blue – Bricanyl
Treatment: Using a Puffer (4 x 4 x 4):
1. Sit the person upright, reassure them, and attempt to keep them calm
2. Do not leave the person alone
3. Without delay shake a blue reliever puffer and give 4 separate puffs through a spacer (if available). Use 1 puff at a time and ask the person to take 4 breaths from the spacer after each puff
4. Wait 4 minutes.
5. If there is no improvement repeat step 3
6. If there is still no improvement after another 4 minutes, or you are concerned at any time, call an ambulance immediately (Dial 000), and repeat steps 3 and 4 until an ambulance arrives or the casualty is breathing normally
We hope you will join us in celebrating World Health Day and pledge to work together for a #HealthierTomorrow. Remember that climate change is a threat to human health, driving diseases like asthma.
These tips are just a start; please visit our website for more information on how you can manage your asthma or book a first aid course today. Together we can make the world healthier for everyone.
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