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As recent events have shown us, asthma attacks can strike fast and to a wide range of individuals. Even those who have never been affected before, could develop asthma over their lives and experience a sudden onset for the very first time during an extreme weather condition.


We have learnt in the past few weeks, that Melbourne is a global hotspot for the ‘thunderstorm asthma’ phenomenon. With severe storms predicted for Queensland, this is a timely reminder of asthma first aid.




Knowing what to do for asthma first aid will help if this happens to you or anyone around you. Of course, for the 1 in 10 Australians who are diagnosed asthmatics, they should take their preventer medication and follow their asthma management plan. However, for those of us who presume we are asthma free, it is important to aware that it can in fact strike anyone at any time of their life.


How do you know if you might experience asthma? A study found that in 95% of those affected, they’d had a history of hayfever and allergies. If this is you or a loved one, you should be particularly aware of what first aid to give for an asthma attack.

Factors triggering an asthma attack

The following trigger factors may lead to inflammation, narrowing of the airways, and excess mucus production in the airways which causes wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Those trigger factors might be from:

  • exercise

  • respiratory infections

  • allergies (e.g. to pollens, foods, bee sting)

  • exposure to a sudden change in weather conditions, especially cold air

  • anxiety or emotional stress

  • house dust

  • smoke

  • certain food additives or preservatives.


Signs and symptoms


Someone suffering from an asthma attack may be experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms

  • increasing wheeze

  • persistent cough

  • difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath

  • able to speak in short sentences

  • chest tightness

  • little or no relief from inhaler

  • unable to speak normally

  • pallor, sweating

  • progressively more anxious, subdued or panicky

  • blue lips, face, earlobes, fingernails

  • loss of consciousness


Assessing the severity of an asthma 


Asthma attack                


  • You have increasing wheezing, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath 

  • You are waking often at night with asthma symptoms 

  • You need to use your reliever again within 3 hours.

  • Your symptoms get worse very quickly 

  • You have severe shortness of breath, can’t speak comfortably or lips look blue 

  • You get little or no relief from your reliever inhale


*Anyone experiencing an asthma emergecy needs urgent medical treatment. Call triple zero 000 for an ambulance.


If you or someone you love suffers from asthma, you can learn about assisting those suffering from an asthma attack with St John Ambulance (Qld) Combine Asthma and Anaphylaxis course.


Although asthma is treatable and usually can be managed well, there is no known cure and can affect people differently. Recognising and treating symptoms early can reduce the severity of an attack.


Book online today.


The content of this artilce is offered as general advice and is not a replacement for a first aid training course or medical advice. If you have any concerns about a medical condition see a health professional.

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