Asthma is a common condition, affecting more than five million people in the UK. The most problematic part about asthma is the life-threatening asthma attacks. These medical emergencies kill three people in the UK every day, according to the NHS. Dr Ellie busts one myth about treating these attacks.
You might have heard about a simple remedy for asthma attacks – using a brown bag to breathe in and out.
The show’s presenter Phillip Schofield checked with the doctor whether this technique is really suitable for treating an asthma attack.
To which Dr Ellie responded: “Brown paper bag is for when someone’s having a panic attack.
“Absolutely do not do that if somebody is having an asthma attack.”
Another presenter on the show Rochelle Humes noted: “That seems like a real old-fashion thing, give him a brown paper bag.”
Dr Ellie added: “That’s for panic, definitely not for asthma.”
The doctor explained that asthma attacks need to be taken seriously as they are “medical emergencies”.
She shared what to do in case someone in your close proximity suffers from an asthma attack.
Dr Ellie said: “The first thing to do is, remember that an asthma attack is actually a medical emergency, so it’s absolutely appropriate if you don’t feel confident, immediately to call 999.
“Asthma kills people every day in the UK, so call 999, that’s the first thing.
“Sit the person up and look for this blue inhaler, which is the reliever inhaler.”
“And if they can, then you should try and give them the inhaler,” she explained showing the inhaler.
The doctor explained how to actually use the inhaler in case of the emergency.
“You should have your head up and actually be directing it down that opens the airway,” Dr Ellie noted.
There’s also another trick, she shared, which describes a “special way” to breathe for adults.
She said: “You breathe out and once you’ve breathed out, you put your lips around the inhaler and breathe in while you press down.”
Parents with children will use a so-called spacer with their inhaler to make it “easier” to deliver the medication.
In case you need a reminder, here are the signs signalling an asthma attack:
- Symptoms like cough, breathlessness, wheezing or tight chest getting worse
- Reliever inhaler (usually blue) is not helping
- Being too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
- Breathing getting faster making you feel like you cannot catch your breath
- Peak flow score is lower than normal.
Children can also experience a tummy or chest ache, the NHS explains.
Remember Dr Ellie’s advice, if you don’t feel confident providing help during an asthma attack, call 999 “immediately”.