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The Importance of First Aid Skills

When we have children, it is vital that we understand the rudiments of First Aid. As parents, we all know that we would never forgive ourselves if we’d failed to do something simple that would have prevented our child or someone else’s child from dying. It really is a question of life or death.

A large number of studies of the brain have been undertaken over the last 20 years. From these studies one important finding has shown that people who practise a skill over and over again will go into ‘action mode’ rather than shutting down in panic when something happens that calls on that skill. This was never more evident than in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in which the companies that had had regular fire escape training and drilling fared comparatively better in being able to save their workforce because they knew exactly where to go and what to do.

So time spent learning and practising First Aid skills on a First Aid course, whilst it may seem difficult to fit into our busy lives, could possibly be the best thing we could ever do. Basic knowledge of First Aid includes how to treat and assess burns, bites, poisoning, fractures, bleeding, convulsions, asthma, choking, breathing problems, chest pains etc.

As one in eleven children suffers from asthma in the UK, it is likely that we will come across someone who is having an asthma attack. So, here a few pointers that may help. BUT these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of First Aid and, as we’ve discussed above, First Aid classes are the way forward.

First Aid advice from St John Ambulance:

In an asthma attack the muscles of the air passages in the lungs go into spasm and the linings of theairways swell. As a result, the airways become narrowed and breathing becomes difficult. Children with asthma usually deal well with their own attacks by using a blue reliever inhaler, however you may be required to assist someone having an asthma attack or having an attack for the first time.


  • Difficulty in breathing, with a very prolonged breathing-out phase.
  • There may also be:
- Wheezing when breathing out
- Difficulty speaking and whispering
- Distress and anxiety
- Coughing
- Possible grey-blue tinge to the lips, earlobes and nailbeds.


  • Your aims during an asthma attack are to ease the breathing and if necessary get medical help.
  • You need to keep the child calm and reassure them.
  • If they have a blue reliever inhaler then encourage them to use it. Children may have a spacer device and you should encourage them to use that with their inhaler also. It should relieve the attack within a few minutes.
  • Encourage the child to breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Encourage the child to sit in a position that they find most comfortable, often leaning forward with arms resting on a table or the back of a chair.
  • Do not lie the child down. 
  • A mild asthma attack should ease within 3 minutes but if it doesn’t, encourage the child to use their inhaler again.


If this is the first attack, or if the attack is severe and any one of the following occurs:
The inhaler has no effect after 5 minutes or they have no inhaler
The child is becoming worse
Breathlessness makes talking difficult
The child becomes exhausted

Dial 999 (or 112) for an ambulance

Encourage the casualty to use their inhaler every 5 to 10 minutes. Monitor and record the breathing and pulse rate every 10 minutes. If the patient becomes unconscious open the airway and check their breathing and be prepared to give emergency aid.


For First Aid Classes try: R.E.D.I Training First Aid classes
St John Ambulance
British Red Cross First Aid Training

For more information on Asthma including support, diagnosis, medicines and treatment:
Asthma UK charity