Asthma in children
This module is very similar to the asthma module contained in our Advanced Online First Aid course. We've included here however as asthma is such a common medical condition affecting children.
In 2009, an estimated 6.8 million children in the United States suffered from asthma.
The body has a system of tubes (known as airways) to carry air from our mouth/nose to our lungs. The largest of these is our trachea (known as windpipe). This then splits into two bronchi which then split into a network of tiny bronchioles. This network of bronchioles delivers air to the tiny sacs where gas exchange takes place (known as alveoli).
Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the smallest airways – the bronchioles. These tiny tubes can become inflamed and secrete excessive amounts of mucous causing severe difficulty in breathing. This is known as an asthma attack. The cause of asthma is thought to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
An asthma attack is normally triggered by something, whether it be an allergen (e.g: pollen, dust, vehicle emissions, soot etc.) or an environmental condition such as cold air. Normally, an asthma attack is characterised by the following symptoms:
- A wheezing sounds when breathing
- Difficulty in breathing
- Unable to complete a full sentence
- Anxiety and panic
- Reducing levels of consciousness
Remember not all of these signs and symptoms may be obvious.
The casualty may wear a bracelet on their wrist/ankle/neck with details of their asthma. Also, they may carry their medication with them.
First aid for an asthma attack
Step 1: Sit the child down in the position they find most comfortable for their breathing.
Step 2: Find their medication, which is normally an inhaler (possibly with a spacer device) containing a drug such as Salbutamol.
Step 3: Assist the child to use their medication. They should have been trained in how to administer the inhaler. Most children should use a device known as a spacer with their inhaler. A spacer makes it easier for the child to take the medication.
Step 4: Provide reassurance and help calm the person’s breathing if they are hyperventilating.
If the medication does not have any effect, the casualty starts to become drowsy/exhausted or if they have forgotten their medication then you should call an emergency ambulance immediately.
If the casualty becomes unconscious, then open their airway by tilting their head back and check for normal breathing. If they are breathing then roll them onto their side to protect their airway. If they are not breathing then commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Asthma attacks can appear frightening but you should make every effort to remain calm and in-control of the situation. Do not delay in calling for emergency help if you are concerned.
Video: Asthma in Children