Catherine Lux, who has asthma, wrote an article recently in The Huffington Post about her experience with the condition and in particular about a time when she had had an attack on a crowded train. Nobody helped her and, indeed, she actually wrote about how at the time she felt like her fellow passengers were judging her.
It's strange that even with a condition as common as asthma there's such a huge misunderstanding when it comes to attacks and how to deal with them. If you found someone today struggling to breath, what would you do? Undoubtedly it would be a scary situation to find yourself in, but if you follow the simple steps below, you'll find it isn't so difficult to provide help after all.
Recognising an attack
The symptoms of asthma can vary, but if you find someone struggling to breath then it could be an attack. Look for difficulty breathing and speaking, wheezing and coughing, signs of distress and also, in some cases, a grey or blue tinge to the lips, earlobes or nail-beds.
Keep them as calm as you can and remind them to breath slowly and deeply. It may not seem like much, but a calm presence – even if it's just a few reassuring words – can mean a lot to someone who is experiencing an attack.
Help with their inhaler
The inhaler is the single most important tool in treating asthma. Getting them to use it as soon as possible is the absolute best way to prevent the attack getting worse. In most cases using the inhaler should begin to alleviate the effects of the attack.
Move away from triggers
Asthma symptoms can be triggered by a number of things – if you're in a smoky or dusty environment then that might be what has caused the attack. Removing the person calmly and safely from the area when possible is a good way to reduce their symptoms.
Ask if they have an asthma action plan
If they are able to talk then follow their instructions. They are likely to have a plan of action already and they will know best how to deal with their symptoms. If they can't speak then find their inhaler and proceed as above.
If the attack continues after the inhaler is used, there's no improvement or they haven't got their inhaler with them, then you should call an ambulance. In some cases they may recover on their own and decide that they don't need any further assistance but it is important that you call 999 if symptoms are not subsiding and if they are clearly suffering.
For more information about managing an asthma attack, visit the Asthma UK website.