Asthma is a condition where the airways become narrowed, making it difficult to breathe. Air passing through the narrowed airways causes wheezing. There are many triggers to asthma, including pollen, cold, animal hair, exercise or a viral infection.

People with asthma use inhalers to help open up the airways again. Most asthmatics have mild asthma, but occasionally it can be serious or life threatening. An unwell asthmatic will be short of breath and struggling to speak in sentences. If they are really unwell, they may appear blue around the lips (cyanosed) due to lack of oxygen.

Unwell asthmatics need urgent medical attention. Get emergency help quickly. They will find breathing easier if they are sat upright. If the casualty has an inhaler, help them to use it whilst you wait for the emergency services. As they have difficulty breathing, making a hole in the base of a polystyrene cup or plastic bottle and putting the mouthpiece of the inhaler in it to form a face mask can improve the amount of medication they receive. Place the cup over the nose and mouth and activate the inhaler 6-8 times consecutively. Ask them to breathe in and out as deep as they can for 30 seconds.

Making a hole in a plastic bottle or polystyrene cup can help an asthmatic person who is gasping for breath to breathe more easily

If the casualty stops breathing altogether whilst waiting for trained assistance, then start CPR.