Breathing Emergencies

Breathing emergencies make up a small portion of emergency, childcare and standard first aid courses (register for a standard first aid course with Vancouver First Aid). However, with respiratory emergencies being the primary concern with children and infants I thought I would spend some time explaining the simplicity in treating respiratory emergencies. Respiratory emergencies include anaphylaxis, aspiration, asthma and hyperventilation.

Anaphylaxis is a very treatable condition but that can also be somewhat confusing to recognize. Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction. Severe allergens include consumption of dairy, fish and nuts and environmental situations such as bee stings or other bites. The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis can be tricky to determine because they are different for each person and can be different for each episode. Typically symptoms include redness and itchiness starting on the victims back and swelling of the lips and mouth. Anaphylaxis is included in breathing emergencies because the reaction can include swelling and reduction in the victim’s ability to breath.

Aspiration is a general term for inhalation of a foreign body into a victim’s respiratory system. This foreign body / gas can cause breathing difficulties for the victim. Signs and symptoms are different for each victim but include difficulty breathing.

Asthma is a medical condition that is very treatable with medication. It is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the airway. Signs and symptoms are fairly recognizable as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. The most traumatic episode is the victim’s first episode in which this scenario is unfamiliar. The asthma “attack” can be triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment includes the use of corticosteroids.

Hyperventilation is condition in which the patient is “overbreathing”. The victim is in a state of breathing faster and / or deeper than normal causing an imbalance in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. The reduced levels of carbon dioxide in the body raises the blood’s PH value which in turn makes in more alkaline. The increased PH levels causes the constriction of blood vessels supplying the blood to the brain and causes reduced levels of oxygen to that vital organ. With reduced oxygen levels to the brain the victim can experience numbness or tingling in the extremities and lips, light headedness, dizziness, headache, slurred speech, nausea, and loss of consciousness. Hyperventilation can be tied to panic attacks. Treating hyperventilation through the use of a paper bag is not recommended.

All of these respiratory emergencies can be treated with the same method. All of these emergencies can be triggered by environmental situations such as airborne allergens, irritants, high humidity, heat and poor air quality. Part of the treatment is to remove the victim from the environment. Furthermore, many respiratory emergency’s such as asthma and anaphylaxis can be treated by medications typically carried by the patient. All respiratory emergencies can be treated by removing the victim from the area, taking proper medication and contacting EMS if the situation does not improve. This is the simple method of treating respiratory emergencies.

The material posted in this blog is for information purposes only. Courses such as emergency first aid and childcare first aid teach candidates to recognize and treat victims of breathing emergencies. Learn to save the life of a loved one by taking a Red Cross first aid course.

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