By Dr. Sunil Garg
The first question that comes to mind is what is meant by difficult breathing and how do you know that now one needs to seek medical help and what to do or what not to do till medical help arrives so as to avoid life threatening complications to occur.
Breathing difficulty involves a sensation of difficult or uncomfortable breathing or a feeling of not getting enough air. It is almost always a medical emergency (other than feeling slightly winded from normal activity like exercise or climbing a hill). Seeking early medical help reduces the risk of life-threatening complications. Difficult breathing has many potential causes. It can be caused by a relatively mild to a moderate condition as pneumonia or a serious or life-threatening condition such as a severe asthma attack or heart failure. Other causes of difficulty in breathing are · Choking on something stuck in the airways · Neurological or neuromuscular conditions · Rapid ascent to high altitudes, where there is less oxygen in the air which can be a problem even in young people · Injury to the neck, chest wall, or lungs · Life-threatening allergic reaction · Emotional distress as Anxiety or panic attacks · Obesity Breathing difficulties often occur in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition
. For example, breathing difficulties caused by pneumonia can occur in conjunction with a fever and a loose cough. When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call emergency if you or someone else has laboured breathing, especially if accompanied by: •Pallor (very pale or greyish skin and lips) or cyanosis (a bluish discoloration of the skin, lips or nails) •Restlessness and anxiety •Swelling of the extremities or abdomen •Weakness, fatigue and tiring easily with or without exertion •Severe sharp Chest pain •Sweating, dizziness or light-headedness •Coughing up large amounts of blood or Excessive drooling •Nausea or vomiting •High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) •Gurgling or whistling sounds. •Choking, possibly accompanied by inability to speak •Rapid heart rate, generally more than about 100 beats per minute for an adult •Sudden swelling of the lips, mouth or face due to an allergic reaction. •Fainting or change in level of consciousness or sudden behavioural change What to do when someone has difficulty in breathing-
· Call the emergency/doctor immediately.
· Continue to monitor the person’s breathing until medical help arrives. · Loosen any tight clothing. · Help the person use any prescribed medication (such as an asthma inhaler or home oxygen). · If there are open wounds in the neck or chest, they must be closed immediately, especially if air bubbles appear in the wound. Bandage such wounds at once. What not to do while waiting for medical help-
•Do not give the person any foods or drinks. •Do not move the person if there has been a chest or airway injury, unless it is absolutely necessary. •Do not place a pillow under the person’s head if he or she is lying down. This can close the airway. •Do not wait to see if the person’s condition improves before getting medical help. Get help immediately. What to do to prevent such situation to occur-
•Wear a medical alert tag if you have a pre-existing breathing condition, such as asthma. •If you have asthma or allergies, eliminate household allergy triggers like dust mites •Don’t smoke and keep away from secondhand smoke. Don’t allow smoking in your home •Make sure your child obtains the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine. •When traveling by airplane, get up and walk around once in awhile to avoid forming blood clots in your legs. •Lose weight.
Obese are also at greater risk for heart disease and heart attack
Dr. Sunil Garg is a Critical care (ICU) specialist, based in Udaipur. By this article his aim is to create awareness among people how to go about and deal with commonly encountered emergency medical situations till one gets medical help.