Emergency Response When Experiencing Difficulty in Breathing

Apr 17, 2023

Breathing DifficultyBreathing is a bodily function that begins at birth and continues until death. Because of this, people tend to take it for granted. The only time we pay attention to the process of breathing is when it becomes difficult. That is when its importance and the seriousness of the situation sink in. Certain illnesses such as asthma may force people to deal with breathing issues on an ongoing basis. Heavy breathing after strenuous physical activity is normal. Even in these types of situations, breathing difficulties may still be a medical emergency. While overreaction to normal, deep or heavy breathing should be avoided, the possibility of a more serious problem should not be ignored, if the person appears to be in discomfort or has become unconscious.

What Is Breathing Difficulty?

Before looking at the response to breathing difficulty, it is important to know what the signs are so that you know when you need to act. A struggle to breathe may be obvious in terms of gasping for breath or a heaving chest, but there are other signs which include:

  • Breathing rapidly
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Feeling anxious
  • Blue color of the skin, lips or fingers
  • Confusion
  • Tiredness
  • Whistling, wheezing or gurgling sounds

Also Read: Healthy Habits That Can Help Deal with Lung Cancer

The Right Response

In the movies, the hero steps in and saves the life of a person with breathing difficulty in just a few moments. Reality is different. The right response requires a calm and planned approach to the emergency. This is what needs to be done:

  • Loosen the clothes the person is wearing. Tight clothing can restrict breathing function. Check undergarments too for any tightness that may cause breathing difficulty. If in doubt, open the buttons or zipper or cut the clothes open.
  • If you know the person and are aware of any medications he or she is taking for breathing problems, and the medication is available, administer it. Often, just a puff from an inhaler is enough to provide immediate relief.
  • Make the person sit up straight because that will extend the respiratory tract and free the airway.
  • Do not make the person bend over or place a pillow under the head as this will cause further restriction of airflow.
  • If the person has to be moved from a place of danger, support the neck during the process and keep the movement minimal.
  • Do not give the person any food or drink even if he asks for it. This could result in choking.
  • Check to see if there are any open wounds near the neck or head. If there are, and bubbles appear in the visible blood, this could indicate lung damage. If there are wounds, bandage them as soon as possible to stem the blood flow.
  • If you know CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) or a bystander does, and the person is unconscious, it should be done until medical help arrives.
  • While doing all the above, call, or ask a bystander to call, for emergency medical aid. Even if the person appears to be recovering, there could be major underlying health issues that require professional care.
  • If you have noted any other symptoms such as wheezing sounds, a rapid heartbeat or sweating, or if the person complains of pain or dizziness, inform the medical professionals as soon as they arrive. This will be very valuable in enabling them to diagnose the cause of the problem.
  • If you can, and the medical professional permits, accompany the ambulance to the hospital so that you can brief the emergency department staff on the details of what happened. This may allow them to begin treatment faster.

Also Read: Understanding the Various Stages of Lung Cancer

You do not have to be a medical professional to administer first aid when there is a breathing or other health emergency. What is essential is that you stay calm and focused and use your knowledge and common sense to help the patient until medical help arrives. That is what can make the difference between life and death.

If a person has had a serious breathing problem and first aid has provided relief, that is not all that is required. The person must be taken to a multispecialty hospital where there will be a range of medical specialists and modern medical technology, including a pulmonary department available, to diagnose the cause of the problem and to determine whether any further action or treatment is required, and if so, what it should be. A breathing problem does not occur by itself and just because it has gone, it does not mean that the person is now safe.

A person may do many great things in life, but none of them will equal the value of saving the life of another.

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