According to data provided by Asthma + Lung UK, four people die from an asthma attack every day. These attacks occur when an individual's asthma symptoms get much worse. This could be due to a specific trigger, or in some cases for no obvious reason. For some people an asthma attack can build up gradually over a few days, but for others they can happen suddenly, putting them at risk of going to hospital. In order to minimise the risk of further health complications or needing to be hospitalised, the charity states that it is imperative for asthma sufferers, or those close to them, to recognise when their symptoms are getting worse, and the necessary steps to take when an attack strikes.
After experiencing his brother suffer from asthma since they were children, Dr Ranj has always been a strong advocate for asthma sufferers, gladly giving advice to individuals in the past.
And today has been no different, with the This Morning resident doctor sharing his views on the lung condition and his top five tips on what to do when someone is having an attack.
Writing on behalf of the charity, Dr Ranj said: “There are 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK, and shockingly, someone has an asthma attack every 10 seconds – with four lives lost every day.
“I know this not only as a doctor but also because my brother is one of those 5.4 million people.
“I believe that we need to take asthma more seriously as many of these deaths could be prevented with better knowledge and information, which is why I’m lending my support to Asthma + Lung UK this World Asthma Day to raise awareness of life-saving asthma attack advice.”
Going on to explain the crucial advice, Dr Ranj added: “First, it is important to keep calm and sit up straight. Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds up to 10 puffs.
“If you feel worse at any point OR you don’t feel better after 10 puffs call 999 for an ambulance.
“If the ambulance has not arrived after 10 minutes and your symptoms are not improving, take another puff on your inhaler, every 30-60 seconds, up to 10 puffs.
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“If you’re still struggling to breathe, call for an ambulance again.”
The advice and recommendations from Dr Ranj and Asthma + Lung UK come after an estimated 133,800 children in England missed out on their annual asthma review, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This put especially children at risk of suffering from an asthma attack when they returned to schools back in 2021, due to seasonal allergies and exposure to certain cleaning products.
As symptoms of asthma can be similar to over conditions, mainly Covid, it is important for parents and children of a certain age to understand when coughing or shortness of breath may be a sign of asthma and not a common cold virus or Covid.
Signs and symptoms that it is asthma includes the following:
- Cough: A cough that won't go away or keeps coming back, night time/early morning cough - common in children, coughing after doing exercise/being active
- Wheezing: A whistling sound when they breathe
- Tight chest: Children may describe this as a “tummy ache” rubbing their tummy not the chest.
- Breathlessness: Listen for fast breathing, watch to see if they're using lots of their body when they breathe - for example shrugging their shoulders up and down.
The reason individuals suffer from the above symptoms, or similar is due to the airways narrowing or swelling. Asthma can also produce extra mucus making breathing increasingly difficult.
As previously mentioned, this can be caused by specific triggers that range from airborne allergens to physical activity and certain medications.
Due to the vulnerability of individuals who have asthma, it is important they take appropriate steps to prevent attacks and maintain their health. This mainly includes using inhalers, regular visits to their GPs and taking all medication prescribed to them.
Asthma + Lung UK explains that there are multiple different types of inhaler available for asthma patients, and with each it is important to get the inhaler technique correct. If used correctly, inhalers should provide a good level of protection for asthma sufferers.
A reliever inhaler (usually blue coloured) is used for quick relief when symptoms develop. They work by relaxing muscles in the airways so individuals can breathe more easily. For those having an asthma attack, reliever inhalers can be life-saving.
In the past, Dr Ranj demonstrated the best and correct way to use these types of inhalers:
- Remove the cap and hold the inhaler upright
- Stand or sit up straight and shake the inhaler, then tilt your head back slightly and breathe out all the way
- Put the inhaler in your mouth and press down on the inhaler quickly to release the medicine as you start to breathe in slowly
- Breathe in slowly for three to five seconds. Hold your breath for 10 seconds to allow the medicine to go deeply into your lungs.
- Breathe out slowly
- If your doctor recommends, use a spacer (a hollow, plastic chamber) to filter the medicine between the inhaler and your mouth
- Repeat puffs as directed by your doctor.
This World Asthma Day, Dr Ranj finished by adding: “Asthma + Lung UK have created this easy-to-follow five-point plan which provides advice to everyone on how to recognise the signs of an asthma attack and when to call 999, and I would encourage your readers to visit their website for more information: www.asthmaandlung.org.uk.”