What to do in an asthma emergency

An asthma attack can be dangerous. Don’t be caught off guard.

Follow these steps:

1. Know the early warning signs and symptoms of asthma. One of them is a lowered peak flow.

2. Give a list of the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack to your friends, family and colleagues, along with an action plan and a set of written instructions on what to do in an emergency. This should be displayed in a prominent place. This is particularly important if you’re a high-risk asthmatic with partly or poorly controlled asthma.

3. Don’t forget to save the telephone numbers of your doctor and the local hospitals to your phone. Also share these numbers with friends, colleagues and family members.

4. If you have severe asthma, you should have oxygen at hand. If a severe attack occurs, get to the emergency services at your local hospital as quickly as possible.

5. In milder attacks, you can get relief by using your reliever pump. If you live far away from medical services, or where transport isn’t readily available, it’s a good idea to have an emergency course of oral corticosteroids on hand. Try to talk to your doctor before using it.

6. Discuss a plan of action for the yellow and red zones in your written action plan with your doctor in advance. Make a note of the actions you need to take and keep this list in a safe, easily accessible place.

Reviewed by independent healthcare consultant Prof Praneet Valodia and pulmonologist Prof Elvis Irusen, Head of the Division of Pulmonology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. October 2018.

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