Asthma is a respiratory condition affecting the bronchi in the lungs, leading to difficulty in breathing, as well as wheezing, coughing and tightening of the chest. Left untreated, it can be extremely serious, however, it can normally be kept under control with effective monitoring and medication.
Asthma is a common condition, and it is fairly likely that your office will contain at least one person affected by it. Here's what you should know to help keep them safe at work.
Knowledge is power
The best way to find out how to help someone with asthma is to ask the person themselves. Make sure they know how to treat themselves and provide them with a safe place to store their inhaler and other medication they might need during the day. Find out how to recognise the symptoms of an asthma attack and the best way to help someone recover from one. Have your nearest hospital's contact details to hand, just in case.
Avoid common triggers
Asthmatics tend to know what sets their condition off, however, some of the more common triggers include pet hair, pollen, pollution, chemicals and dust. Smoke, too, can have an adverse effect, so make sure smokers stay well away from their colleagues when stepping outside for a cigarette break. Keep windows shut during periods of heavy pollution or high pollen counts and make sure all chemicals are stored according to their manufacturer's safety instructions
As we move towards summer, so people susceptible to hay-fever begin to notice its seasonal effects. Asthma is strongly linked to hay-fever, so make sure sufferers have access to their medication and are able to avoid prolonged exposure to pollens and other seasonal allergens.
Keep it clean
Maintaining excellent hygiene in the office will go a long way towards preventing an asthma attack, although excessive use of cleaning chemicals can be a danger in itself, so don't go too crazy with them in enclosed areas. Hoover carpets to remove pollen particles and make sure surfaces and air conditioning vents are kept clear of dust. Mould can exacerbate asthma too, so keep an eye on any developing damp patches in the building and get them professionally sorted out.
Keep calm and avoid an asthma attack
Stress and anxiety has also been seen to bring on an asthma attack, so encourage your colleagues to remain calm at work and address any causes for concern as soon as possible. Allow plenty of breaks and make sure people aren't working too hard or too much.
How to recognise and treat an asthma attack?
- Difficulty in breathing
- Wheezy breathing
- Difficulty in speaking
- Signs of anxiety and distress
- Hypoxia and cyanosis
- Assist the casualty into the most comfortable position to help them breath easier
- Ask the casualty to take one or two puffs from their own inhaler
- Calm and reassure the casualty
- Encourage the casualty to take slow steady breaths
- Monitor the casualty’s recovery rate to show signs of improvement
- If the casualty condition is getting worse and no signs of improvement are show, and if it the casualty’s first asthma attack, then immediately call 999 for an ambulance.
If you would like to gain further knowledge and practical skills for treating asthma, and have a firm understanding to this life threatening condition, this topic along with other serious illnesses are covered on the First Aid at Work syllabus.