Asthma is caused by an allergy or a heightened sensitivity to something. This “something” is called a trigger.
It is important to avoid accidentally exposing the person in your care to an asthma trigger.
These triggers will initiate the symptoms of asthma. It is important to note that not everyone with asthma will have the same triggers. Some people may have only one trigger whereas others may have several. A few examples of asthma triggers are:
- Strong odours
- There are many more!
What exactly happens in the lungs when a person is exposed to their asthma trigger?
- There is swelling
- There is increased mucus production
- The involuntary muscles contract making the airway smaller
What are the symptoms of asthma?
After exposure to their trigger(s), the person you are caring for may experience a combination of shortness of breath and coughing. You may also hear a high pitched noise from the person as they try to breathe. This is called wheezing. The person may also feel pain or tightness in their chest. The combination of these symptoms is sometimes called an “asthma attack.”
What should you do for the person experiencing the symptoms of asthma or an “asthma attack”?
- Give them their “rescue inhaler” immediately.
- If their asthma symptoms are not resolving with the use of the inhaler or the inhaler is not accessible you must dial 9-1-1 immediately.
*It is important for the person in your care to have their “rescue inhaler” with them at all times. The Asthma Society of Canada states that around 250 Canadians die from asthma every year.
What can you do to help prevent asthma symptoms in the person you are caring for?
It is important to avoid accidentally exposing the person in your care to an asthma trigger. For a person with a known asthma trigger, the best management strategy is to avoid the trigger altogether. However, this may be difficult for some asthma triggers in particular. Please see below for a few tips on how to avoid accidentally exposing the person in your care to a few specific triggers.
- Animals: Ask that family and friends do not bring their animals when they come to visit. If visitors do own pets, ask that they wash their hands before entering the environment of the person in your care.
- Strong odours: Use only unscented products (hand soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, lotions, body wash, etc.) and avoid using perfumes and colognes. Candles, essential oil diffusers, and other various types of air freshners should also be avoided.
- Dust: Minimize the amount of stuffed animals/toys as they are dust magnets. Consider replacing carpet as hard floors hold onto a lot less dust than carpet does.
Consult with a health care professional for more tips on how to avoid accidentally exposing the person in your care to their asthma trigger(s).
Asthma Fact - Did you know that asthma symptoms can also be triggered by the common cold?
Visit the Asthma Society of Canada’s website for more information on asthma.
Encourage the person in your care to follow their prescribed asthma management plan and to take all medications as prescribed.
It is essential for the person in your care to attend all medical appointments. Asthma is a chronic condition that should be monitored regularly by a health care professional. The person with asthma should also be assessed by a health care professional if there is a change in the frequency and/or severity of their asthma symptoms. This will ensure that all asthma medications and therapies are adjusted appropriately.
Please note that this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.