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How to manage asthma in poor air quality

St John Ambulance highlights the importance of managing asthma and smoke inhalation especially during the catastrophic fires in NSW recently.

Bushfire smoke is affecting many residents of NSW and the daily inhalation of smoke is causing health concerns. With very high fire danger warnings issued for Greater Sydney, Far North Coast, North Coast, Greater Hunter, Illawarra and Shoalhaven, Central Ranges, New England, Northern Slopes and North Western fire areas, St John Ambulance NSW are reminding people to act cautiously, particularly those with pre-existing heart and lung conditions.

St John Ambulance NSW CEO Sarah Lance recommends that people with asthma, emphysema, angina or heart conditions to follow their medical management plans and keep medication close.

Ms Lance says “It’s equally important that people know how to help someone around them who might be having asthma-related issues. By reassuring them, sitting them upright, asking if they have an Asthma Action Plan, helping administer medication and calling 000 can mean the difference between life and death."

The most common symptoms of asthma and smoke inhalation are:

  • Wheezing – a high- pitched sound coming from the chest while breathing

  • A feeling of not being able to get enough air or being short of breath

  • A feeling of tightness in the chest

  • Coughing

Responders from St John Ambulance have been deployed across the state to provide first aid treatment at Rural Fire Service base camps and evacuation centres and have helped managed a range of issues including burns, respiratory problems, and fatigue helping to reduce the demand on paramedics and keep our hospitals for those emergency situation.

St John Ambulance have responders providing emotional support to people in evacuation centres who are having an incredibly difficult time.


How to manage smoke inhalation:

Follow DRSABCDIf safe, remove person from smoke or toxic atmosphereSit person upright and loosen tight clothingCall triple zero (000) for an ambulance and fire and rescueIf the person has obvious difficulty in breathing and a wheeze, consider the use of a reliever inhaler (puffer) if availableIf breathing stops, start CPR

How to manage asthma:

Follow DRSABCDHelp the person to sit down in a comfortable positionReassure and stay with the personIf requested, help the person to follow their action plan

How to give asthma medication:

Use a spacer if available

Give 4 separate puffs of blue/grey reliever puffer:shake the inhalergive 1 pufftake 4 breathsrepeat until 4 puffs have been givenWait 4 minutesIf there is no improvement, give 4 more separate puffs of blue/grey reliever as abovIf the person still cannot breathe normally, call triple zero (000) for an ambulanceKeep giving 4 puffs every 4 minutes (as above) until medical aid arrives


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