Published: Tuesday 07 April 2020

Many of us work with or care for someone who has asthma. So how do we recognise when someone is having an attack and how do we treat someone in this situation?

Asthma attacks are caused when there is a reaction in the lungs. These reactions can be caused by things such as dust, pollen, tobacco, smoke, exercise, stress or infection.

Most people who have had asthma diagnosed carry an inhaler ready for emergency use. These emergency inhalers are usually blue but it is always a good idea to check with a child’s parents.

As well as making sure the inhaler is to hand, it is important to be calm and reassuring.

How can you recognise if someone is having an asthma attack?

There are various symptoms that can identify an asthma attack:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezy breath sounds originating from the lungs
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Grey or blue lips and skin
  • Use of muscles in the neck and upper chest when breathing
  • Exhaustion in a severe attack
  • May become unconscious and stop breathing in a prolonged attack

How can you treat an asthma attack?

  • Help the sufferer sit upright. This may be against a table or chair if needed.
  • Assist with administering the inhaler, using a spacer device if you can. You can repeat this every few minutes if the attack does not subside.
  • Distract the patient from the attack. Try chatting with them about something else, whilst reassuring and calming them.
  • Cold air can make an attack worse, so keep the child or patient inside.
  • Always keep the patient upright. The only time they can lie down is if they are unconscious.
  • If the child or colleague does not have an inhaler or it doesn’t seem to be helping, call 999.

Treatment of asthma attacks is part of our Paediatric First Aid course, so if you’re new to the subject or it’s time for a refresher, check out our course dates coming up soon. If you or your team would like specialist asthma awareness training, we are pleased to offer bespoke, in-house courses either at your workplace or an agreed venue. Give us a call on 01273 702496 or drop us an email to if you’d like to find out more.

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