Parents often refer to this condition as croup. Health professionals call it allergies. These allergies affect the bronchial and respiratory systems. Rather than causing hives or itchy, red skin, allergies that affect breathing cause the throat to swell, constricting the airway and making it difficult to inhale.
Symptoms of this type of breathing problem include wheezing, hoarseness, and a harsh cough. To administer first aid for such symptoms, follow these steps:
- Call for medical assistance.
- If a shower is nearby, create a steam room by turning the hot water on high with the shower curtain closed. If the person is an adult, hold him upright so that the steam is focused on his face. If the affected person is a child, lift her on your shoulders and have her breathe in the steamed air. (Be careful not to let any of the hot water splash on either one of you.)
- Use your own judgment when it comes to steam. It can’t hurt, but it might not be of any benefit either. If the steam helps restore breathing, keep the patient inside for up to 10 minutes, but never leave him or her unattended. Keep a vigil.
- After the person having difficulty leaves the steam room, have him or her lie down, head slightly elevated. Towel the person dry and cover him or her with a warm blanket.
- If the breathing problems begin anew, put him or her back in the steam. Continue the process until help arrives.
Sometimes the previous steps are all you need to clear breathing passageways. If the victim is starting to breathe easier and you are at home and have access to a vaporizer, place it close to the person’s bed. A good night’s sleep might do the trick.
Sometimes allergic reactions can be more serious than asthma attacks, and seconds really count. A bee sting, an allergy to seafood or some other food (such as peanuts), or an allergy to certain weeds or flowers may be dangerous. Any of these can create an anaphylactic reaction, in which the throat swells so much that a person eventually won’t be able to breathe at all. In this situation, the only recourse is to:
- Call an ambulance.
- Make the victim as comfortable as possible.
- Follow the first aid instructions for asthma and allergies, above.
An epinephrine medication must be administered to neutralize the allergic reaction. People who have anaphylactic-reaction allergies are usually aware of their symptoms. They sometimes carry epinephrine injection kits prescribed by their doctors for anaphylactic emergencies. A person who has this allergy is usually trained in giving the injection. But if the victim is incapacitated, you will have to do it.
If a person stops breathing before help arrives, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is your only course of action. Remember that breathing has stopped because of inflammation, congested airways, or a deluge of immune-resistant chemicals. Therefore, medication that decreases the inflammation and the harmful chemicals is the only thing that will work. Try an inhalator if the emergency becomes acute.
Don’t forget to look for a Medic Alert bracelet. These bracelets can contain vital information that could ease allergic reactions and even save lives.