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Asthma is a condition that causes sensitivity of the airways in the lungs. When exposed to certain triggers these airways narrow, making it hard to breathe.

When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Sometimes sticky mucus or phlegm builds up which can further narrow the airways.

First Aid for Asthma

  • Sit the person comfortably upright. Reassure the person and do not leave them alone.
  • Give four puffs of a reliever inhaler (typically blue-grey in colour). Use a spacer if available. Use the person’s own inhaler if possible.
  • Wait four minutes. If the person still cannot breathe normally, give four more puffs.
  • If the person still cannot breathe normally, CALL AN AMBULANCE IMMEDIATELY (DIAL 000). Say that someone is having an asthma attack. Keep giving reliever. Give four puffs every four minutes until the ambulance arrives. Four puffs for children each time is a safe dose.


The exact cause of Asthma is not completely understood. Asthma is one of a group of allergic conditions, including eczema and hayfever, which often occur together. A family history of Asthma, eczema or allergies, increases the risk of person developing Asthma. Research shows that smoking during pregnancy increases the child’s risk of developing asthma. Children whose parents smoke are also more likely to develop the condition.

Common triggers of Asthma

Asthma triggers can vary between people. Common triggers include:

  • Colds and flu (especially in children)
  • Exercise (this can be managed)
  • Pollens, moulds and grasses
  • Animal fur and dander (skin flakes)
  • Dust mites
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Changes in air temperature and weather
  • Certain drugs e.g. aspirin and certain blood pressure medications
  • Some chemicals, strong smells and aerosol sprays
  • Some occupations
  • Some emotions e.g. stress

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what is triggering your Asthma. Ask your Doctor for advice.


Common symptoms of Asthma include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest.


Although there is no cure for Asthma, there are some excellent medicines available to help control the symptoms so that it does not interfere with daily life. Good Asthma management allows a person to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. If you or your child experiences symptoms that could be due to Asthma, it is important to get advice from your GP. There is no simple test for Asthma. It is diagnosed by your Doctor after examination, and taking into account how and when symptoms occur.

DISCLAIMER: This information is an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or naturopath before following any medical regimen to see whether it is safe and effective for you.