Home | Opinion | Opinion: strong offence is the best defence against asthma attacks

Opinion: strong offence is the best defence against asthma attacks

When wild thunderstorms and extreme pollen counts led to what has now been labelled a thunderstorm asthma epidemic in Melbourne late last year, we were reminded once again about the seriousness of the condition.

In Australia, chronic childhood asthma affects more than 10 per cent of kids, and childcare workers are often on the frontline when it comes to dealing with all severities of asthma conditions. There’s no telling when an asthma attack is likely to occur, and when young children are involved they aren’t often able to understand the warning signs that an attack is coming on. Childcare workers must therefore be well-versed in the most up to date First Aid training and be prepared to put this into practice at all times.

Asthma attacks can happen anywhere, at any time

While there are regulations in place to govern the number of childcare staff legally required to have asthma management training, the reality is that you can never be too prepared when it comes to the safety of the children placed in your care. With the World Health Organization seeing increased rates of asthma in children, unfortunately this condition isn’t going away any time soon.

It’s important to first be aware of the potential asthma triggers, such as pollen, dust, air pollution and, in some cases, exercise. You may not be able to eliminate these triggers entirely, but simply being aware of them will allow you to be prepared at all times, especially when you have planned activities that may be triggering for the children in your care.

Administering asthma medication isn’t simply a point-and-shoot situation. The proper use of an inhaler and spacer as treatment for anyone suffering from an asthma attack is best remembered as the four by four by four method. One puff of the inhaler is administered into the spacer and the patient is instructed to take four breaths. This process is repeated for a total of four puffs of the inhaler. If their condition hasn’t improved after 4 minutes you repeat the process again while waiting for an emergency response.

It is of the upmost importance that you’re able to remain calm in these situations, which is usually achieved by being confident in your knowledge of an asthma response or medical management plan. Hopefully, you will have no or few opportunities to test your first aid skills in the real world, which is why an up-to-date plan, developed in conjunction with an experienced first aid trainer is vital.

It might not be the only emergency you’re dealing with

In addition to asthma attacks, we’re hearing more and more from childcare centres that anaphylaxis is a concern. As such, it is incredibly important that all childcare workers are regularly trained to respond to a medical emergency. Individual training courses for each condition can become costly and time consuming, however, some first aid training providers offer a combined course that covers asthma and anaphylaxis management.

It’s easy to think that you can administer a reliever but can you remember the legal requirements around asthma in your workplace? Could you tell a concerned parent the difference between an allergy, anaphylaxis and an intolerance? Do you have a communication plan in place at your centre to raise awareness of the latest medical advice surrounding these incidents? It’s questions such as this that regular first aid training, conducted by the best in industry trainers, answer.

How can you equip yourself in the best way possible?

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) recently exposed several training colleges for handing out fraudulent first aid certificates to incompetent students. Not only does this present serious risks to the children being cared for by these staff, it places more onus on the competently trained staff to respond correctly in a medical emergency. There is no room for error.

Take it upon yourself to thoroughly research a first aid provider that will provide you and your colleagues with the highest standard of training. Be sure your chosen provider is a Registered Training Organisation that delivers nationally recognised training. Go beyond the fine print, consider the experience of an organisation (how many people do they train each year?), the latest technology and techniques they use (new research and learnings methods are constantly emerging) and how much experience the trainers have in your chosen area. These are the questions every superior first aid provider should be able to answer.

Anthony Hasphall is a training team manager at St John Ambulance Victoria.

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