asthma attack prevention

Asthma Attack Prevention – NHS Guidance

Asthma is a common lung condition that affects 5.4 million people in the UK, and just over a million of sufferers are children. Asthma causes occasional breathing difficulties that often become exacerbated in colder weather.

Charity, Asthma UK has advised those with asthma to wear scarves over their noses and mouths this winter as an act of self-care and asthma attack prevention. Around three out of four people are more likely to have an asthma attack by breathing in colder, damp air, which can tighten the airways and cause difficulty breathing.

While the charity’s #Scarfie campaign claims that, “A scarf can save a life”, it is not a replacement or better alternative to medication.

Symptoms of asthma attacks

The exact causes of asthma are unknown, and while it can affect people of all ages, it commonly develops in childhood.

People with asthma have swollen and sensitive airways, which narrow and become clogged with mucus in response to certain lifestyle and environmental triggers. Some people even grow out of asthma, however for others it is a life-long condition.

Rather than happening suddenly as the term suggests, an asthma attack occurs slowly over a few hours or days; signs that you may be experiencing an asthma attack include:

  • worsening symptoms, including coughing, wheezing and a tightness in the chest
  • no relief from your blue inhaler
  • an inability to speak, eat or sleep due to extreme breathlessness
  • rapid breathing and the feeling that you cannot catch your breath
  • a lower than normal peak flow score
  • children may experience a stomach ache

What to do during an asthma attack

Firstly, it’s important not to panic as this could exacerbate symptoms and worsen the asthma attack. The NHS recommends these four steps when experiencing an asthma attack.

It’s important to remember that you must never feel too frightened to call for help during an emergency. If you call 111 and thy make an appointment for you at your nearest primary care centre, it’s important to remember to bring details of your medication or, if you have one, your personal asthma action plan with you.

If your symptoms improve and you don’t need to call 999, ensure that you make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse. After an asthma attack, you should make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse 48 hours after leaving hospital, or 24 hours if you didn’t receive any hospital treatment.

Asthma attack prevention

One in six people who receive hospital treatment after an asthma attack will need medical care again within a fortnight, so it’s extremely important that you talk to a doctor or nurse about how to manage your condition safely and to prevent any future asthma attacks.

In order to become proactive in asthma attack prevention, you can:

  • create a personal asthma action plan to follow and take your medication as prescribed
  • schedule regular appointments with your GP or asthma nurse to review your condition – this should be done annually at the very least
  • ensure that you’re using your inhaler correctly
  • avoid asthma triggers when possible

Never ignore your symptoms, especially if they are getting worse or you find that you need to use your inhaler more than usual. Always follow your asthma plan, and if your symptoms continue to worsen, book an appointment with your GP.

You don’t always have to carry out your actions for asthma attack prevention alone. Provide friends, family and work colleagues with copies of your personal asthma action plan so that they can help you during an emergency. It could also be useful to have a copy saved onto your phone just in case you experience an asthma attack in public.