Help for asthma attacks

Posted on 25 December 2019

No parent wants to watch their child gasping for breath. Know how to handle your child’s acute asthma attack at home – and at school.

As Dr Katie Yazbek, a GP at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, explains, asthma is a disease that can occur at any age. “The airways constrict and the airway walls thicken and mucous production is increased. This causes wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing, as well as chest tightness,” Dr Yazbek says. “The symptoms can come and go depending on the season and the environment.” As lung function tests are not helpful in small children, the diagnosis is made by taking a thorough history and doing an examination.

“An acute attack of asthma can be recognised when the patient’s cough and mucous production have increased, the patient is experiencing shortness of breath, the patient is wheezing and struggling to talk or feed, and the child becomes anxious and restless,” Dr Yazbek explains. “An acute asthma attack in a child that is not treated in time can lead to serious consequences such as heart arrest, brain damage or death.”

If your child has an acute asthma attack at home, remain calm, call for medical assistance and do not leave the child alone. “Start treatment with a reliever/bronchodilator pump via a spacer device or nebulise the child with a bronchodilator ampule with or without inhaled cortisone,” Dr Yazbek says. “This should be repeated every 20 minutes. If the child becomes unresponsive, start CPR.”

To ensure your asthmatic child is as safe as possible, your child’s school, teachers and sports coaches should be informed of your child’s condition via a letter and a personal visit. “Explain the precipitating factors for attacks, possible airway allergies/triggers and what treatment is to be given in the event of an attack,” Dr Yazbek says. “Emergency contact numbers and details of the nearest hospital should also be included for guardians and doctors.”

The most important way to prevent an acute attack of asthma is to use the chronic daily preventative medication conscientiously. “In addition, you should regularly attend the treating doctor for follow-ups and check-ups,” Dr Yazbek explains. “Older children should be taught how to use their spacer devices correctly and be rewarded for using their chronic medication correctly.”

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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