An inadequate supply of oxygen contributed to cause of death cont…

Since the patients with even a single episode requiring intubation for severe asthma are at very high risk of recurring life threatening attacks and death, and since most asthma deaths take place at home, it is recommended that patients suffering with severe asthma provide themselves with supplemental oxygen at home for emergency use for possible attacks.

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Around 1,600 adults and 20 children in the UK die every year from acute asthma. The key to their survival can be as simple as receiving a quick supply of pure oxygen.
However asthma sufferers are frequently told by their doctors and other healthcare workers that they do not fit the criteria for a home supply and many local GP surgeries do not hold emergency oxygen cylinders.

Research published in the British Medical Journal states that:
‘an inadequate supply of oxygen was an important cause of death in those who died following a severe attack.’
The research suggests patients with severe asthma could be provided with oxygen cylinders for emergency use at home and says:
‘The important point is that asthmatic patients are still dying during acute attacks – and the use of oxygen… in primary care is rational and could save lives.’
The research is supported by British Thoracic Society’s guidelines which advise oxygen as a first line treatment for all patients with acute severe asthma. Asthma sufferers feel safer knowing that if oxygen is close to hand they will not only have treatment to save their life but it also reduces the severity of the attack; as stress and anxiety levels are reduced and quick and prompt treatment can halt the attack in its step.

An asthma attack may begin suddenly with wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. At other times, an asthma attack may come on slowly with gradually worsening symptoms. In either case, people with asthma usually first notice shortness of breath, coughing, or chest tightness. The attack may be over in minutes, or it may last for hours or days. Itching on the chest or neck may be an early symptom, especially in children. A dry cough at night or while exercising may be the only symptom.

During an asthma attack, shortness of breath may become severe, creating a feeling of severe anxiety. The person instinctively sits upright and leans forward, using the neck and chest muscles to help in breathing, but still struggles for air. Sweating is a common reaction to the effort and anxiety. The pulse usually quickens, and the person may feel a pounding in the chest.

In a very severe asthma attack, a person is able to say only a few words without stopping to take a breath. Wheezing may diminish, however, because hardly any air is moving in and out of the lungs. Confusion, lethargy, and a blue skin color are signs that the person’s oxygen supply is severely limited, and emergency treatment is needed. Usually, a person recovers completely with appropriate treatment, even from a severe asthma attack. Rarely, some people develop attacks so quickly that they may lose consciousness before they can give themselves effective therapy. Such people should wear a medical alert bracelet and carry a cellular phone to call for emergency medical assistance. Research suggests a strong link between stress and asthmatic symptoms and experts suggest better treatment, including confident, self management of the condition, could improve the quality of life for asthmatics. The close links between stress and asthma are clear given the potential consequences of untreated attacks.

An asthma attack can be frightening, both to the person experiencing it and to others around. Even when relatively mild, the symptoms provoke anxiety and alarm. A severe asthma attack is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate, skilled, professional care. If not treated adequately and quickly, a severe asthma attack can cause death.

People who have a mild asthma attack are usually able to treat it without assistance from a health care practitioner. Typically, they use an inhaler to deliver a dose of a short-acting beta-adrenergic drug such as albuterol , move into fresh air (away from cigarette smoke or other irritants), and sit down and rest.

People who have severe symptoms should typically go to an emergency department. For severe attacks, doctors give frequent (or sometimes continuous) treatment using inhaled beta-adrenergic drugs and sometimes anticholinergic drugs. Supplemental oxygen is also given immediately so as to increase the percentage level of oxygen being breathed in to help raise oxygen levels in the blood.

Since the patients with even a single episode requiring intubation for severe asthma are at very high risk of recurring life threatening attacks and death, and since most asthma deaths take place at home, it is recommended that patients suffering with severe asthma provide themselves with supplemental oxygen at home for emergency use for possible attacks.

 

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