Breathing Problems

1. Signs of Breathing Problems

You can tell if someone is having trouble breathing if the person:

  • is breathing very fast or very slowly
  • is having trouble with every breath
  • has noisy breathing -  you hear a sound or whistle as the air enters or leaves the lungs
  • can only make sounds or speak no more than a few words at a time in between breaths although the person is trying to say more

A person who is having an asthma attack will have trouble breathing. Asthma is a disease of the air passages. Someone having a heart attack, having a stroke, or experiencing certain illnesses or injuries also may have breathing problems. They may develop mild or severe blockage of the air passages.

2. Assemble and Use an Inhaler

Someone with a medical condition involving breathing problems, such as asthma, usually knows about the condition and what to do. He often carries inhaler medicine, which can help him breathe more easily within minutes of using it. At times, the person can have such a hard time breathing that he needs help using his inhaler. For this reason, you should be ready to assemble the inhaler and help him use it.

Inhalers are made of 2 parts: the medicine canister and the mouthpiece.

A spacer can be attached that makes it easier for the person with a breathing problem to inhale all the medicine.

Follow these steps to assemble and use an inhaler.

2.1 To assemble the inhaler

  1. First, check the date of expiration of the medicine on the canister
  2. Put the medicine canister into the mouthpiece.
  3. Remove the cap from the mouthpiece.
  4. Attach a spacer if there is one available and if you know how.
  5. Shake the medicine.

2.2 To use an inhaler

  1. Tilt the head back slightly and breathe out slowly.
  2. Place the inhaler or spacer in the mouth.
  3. Push down on the medicine canister.
  4. Breathe in very deeply and slowly.
  5. Hold your breath for about 10 seconds
  6. Then, breathe out slowly

3. Actions for Helping Someone with breathing Problems

If someone is having breathing problems, follow these first aid action steps to help him.

  1. Make sure the scene is safe
  2. Ask the person if he needs help. If he does, ask if he has medicine.
  3. If he has medicine, get it for him. Then, assemble and help him use the inhaler.
  4. Phone your local emergency number if:
    • The person has no medicine
    • The person does not get better after using his medicine
    • The person's breathing gets worse
    • The person has trouble speaking.
    • The person becomes unresponsive.
  5. Stay with the person until someone with more advance training arrives and takes over.

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