In Australia, one in 10 children have asthma. This is one of the highest of rates of childhood asthma in the world.
With air quality labelled as “hazardous” over many areas of Australia due to recent fires, there has been an increase of asthma related presentations to emergency departments. With this increased risk, Sarah Hunstead, registered nurse and founder of CPR Kids tells us what to do in case of an asthma flare up.
More than just a wheeze, asthma is a chronic condition that causes the breathing tubes (airways) to become inflamed and constricted. This causes difficulty breathing. It is also very important to understand that asthma can range from mild to severe, and can be a life-threatening condition. This is why it is so important to be confident in administering the first aid for asthma, and if you have children with asthma in your care, ensure their action plans are up to date and written by a doctor – not the parents!
The symptoms of asthma in children vary from child to child, so make sure you know the potential symptoms. The National Asthma Council Australia say that some of the common symptoms include:
- wheezing – a continuous, high-pitched sound coming from the chest while breathing·
- shortness of breath – a feeling of not being able to get enough air·
- a feeling of tightness in the chest
- coughing – alongside other symptoms.
A child doesn’t need to have all of these symptoms to be diagnosed with asthma, and importantly, children having an asthma flare up will not always have a wheeze, especially if they are very sick.
In an asthma emergency, always follow the National Asthma Council Australia Kids for First Aid for Asthma guide:
1. Sit the child upright
Stay calm, stay with the child and reassure them.
2. Give 4 separate puffs of a reliever puffer (blue or grey puffer)
Use a spacer. Give one puff at a time (shake the puffer before each puff), with 4-6 breaths AFTER each puff.
3. Wait 4 minutes
If after 4 minutes the child still cannot breathe normally, give 4 more puffs (with 4-6 breaths after each puff).
4. If the child still cannot breathe normally Call 000 ambulance immediately
5. Keep giving 4 separate puffs of reliever, with 4-6 breaths after each puff, every 4 minutes until ambulance arrives
If you are not sure if it is asthma, and the child’s main problem seems to be difficulty breathing, still follow this asthma first aid guideline. Using an asthma reliever puffer will not do them any harm even if they don’t have asthma. You can use a reliever inhaler from a first aid kit or borrow one.
Make sure that if the child has anaphylaxis as well as asthma that you follow their action plan and give their adrenaline auto injector (EpiPen) first BEFORE the asthma reliever puffer. If a child in your care is diagnosed with asthma, the most important thing you can do is be confident and prepared to manage an asthma emergency. Know the first aid, ensure their action plan is up to date and always use a spacer device when giving their puffer.
National Asthma Council Australia Kids for First Aid for Asthma chart
- Download the National Asthma Council Australia Kids for First Aid for Asthma chart.
What is asthma
Asthma in Australian children
About CPR Kids & Sarah Hunstead
Sarah Hunstead RN (B Nurs) MNPaediatric Nurse, Mother of 2 and Founding Director of CPR Kids Sarah has over 15 years experience in Paediatric Emergency Nursing, and is continually amazed by the things that children will get up to. With a love of lifelong learning, Sarah has a Masters Degree in Clinical Practice, and founded CPR Kids in 2012.
CPR Kids empowers families, educators and carers of children to recognise and respond to a sick or injured child, with confidence. ‘A practical guide to baby and child first aid’ is Sarah’s first book. The title was inspired by her youngest daughter, who decided it would be a good idea to put a pea in her nostril.