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Questions and answers aboutasthma

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

Q

What is asthma?

Answer
Answer

Asthma is a medical condition that affects the airways – the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When someone has an asthma attack, these tubes become narrowed, making it difficult to breathe in and out.

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Q

How can I tell if someone is having an asthma attack?

Answer
Answer

People with asthma manage their condition and should be able to let you know if they are having an attack. They will have difficulty breathing and speaking, and may cough and wheeze. A person having an attack may be very anxious and distressed as they struggle to breathe. In some cases, their lips, earlobes and nail beds may turn greyish-blue because there isn’t enough oxygen in their body.

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Q

What sort of medication will they use?

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Answer

Someone who has asthma will normally have been prescribed an inhaler by their doctor. The person may also have a spacer which can make using their inhaler more effective. If someone is having an asthma attack they should know how to use their inhaler and spacer but they may need your help in finding them.

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Q

What does an inhaler look like?

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Answer
Inhaler

Inhalers can come in many different sizes and shapes. Usually, inhalers to relieve an asthma attack are blue, while a preventative inhaler may be brown or white.

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Q

What is a spacer?

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Answer

A spacer is a hollow cylindrical container, which attaches to an inhaler and can help a person having an asthma attack take their medication more effectively. It is recommended that a spacer is used when a baby or child is having an asthma attack as they may have trouble using an inhaler effectively.

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Q

When should I call 999?

Answer
Answer

Call 999 if any of the following apply:

  • It is their first attack
  • They stop breathing
  • They are finding it difficult to talk
  • They are becoming exhausted
  • Their medication does't work
  • They don’t have any medication with them
  • Their condition gets worse
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Q

What do I do if the person stops breathing?

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