Asthma UK community forum


I was wondering if anyone knew what sort of training first-aiders had in asthma? It's a while since I did first-aid training and I don't remember being told much about asthma.

Whilst I had a very good experience with the ambulance / hospital this week, I had a terrible experience with the university's 'first-aider'. His actions were no less than dangerous.

I was really struggling when I got in to uni - I couldn't speak and my inhaler wasn't helping. I knew I needed an ambulance, but I couldn't actually say 'call an ambulance' and I had no energy to get my letter from my bag. The first-aider had me sit down and announced to the other staff that I was fine, that I didn't need my meds or other help, and that asthma always got better by itself within 30 minutes. He also tried to get me to drink a cold glass of water (I think I knocked it over him - shame...). Of course I wasn't fine and was in trouble 25 or so minutes later and beginning to turn smurf coloured. Thankfully (and I'm scared to think about what might have happened otherwise) another member of staff came in, saw the seriousness of the situation and, possibly risking her job, told the first-aider that she was calling an ambulance. When the ambulance came, they were fantastic, but did question why it had taken so long for them to be called. The first-aider walked off at this point.

Obviously this needs to be addressed because his 'knowledge' could prove fatal to someone else - I'm just wondering how best to do this, as obviously he's learnt this from whatever first-aid course the university sent him on. Also how do you all generally deal with people who are not being helpful and how do you get help from others particularly if things are severe to the stage of not being able to speak? He scared me so much, I don't want to be in that situation again.

9 Replies

Hi.Im a first aider and one for 30 years and 3 year top up training and have severe asthma. When we see to asthma attacks we send for office firstaider also who is with us to phone and ambo if not settling and checks their care plan and contact numbers while the other keeps them calm and sits them up straight and sees to their reliever as trained to do.x


Hello Ratty

Here is the link to the St John Ambulance public web site page that deals which what first aiders should do with Asthmatics

It is fairly basic common sense. All HSE First Aid courses will teach this - it is very similar to what AUK advises.

Your Uni first Aider needs some serious retraining!!! They should have been on a proper HSE aproved first aid course run by St John Amb, British Red Cross or a proper commercial First aid teaching organisation.

I would ask your university how they train their first aiders, if they keep their efficiency up to date - three yearly with refreshers is better.

This is verging on neglegence!

I hope you are feeling better!

Hope this helps




Thanks Kate and Glynis, I'm just trying to find the name of who is in charge of H&S at my uni to write to. It does scare me as to what could have happened if the other staff member hadn't come in then or if she hadn't have intervened.

What's even worse is that this first-aider actually knows me and (supposedly) has read and has a copy of my care-plan so should have known how dangerous this situation was, but he seemed to think he knew better.

I've found the Asthma UK advice which I will forward - anyone know of any free downloadable online posters for asthma first-aid? I've found lots of nice Australian ones but their advice (and obviously emergency number) is slightly different to the UK and I wouldn't want to cause more confusion.


Hmm, just read the St Johns Ambulance page - quite interested that it only seems to mention spacers for children (unless I read it wrong?) - I use a spacer as my consultant wants me in hospital if I need a neb - this first-aider seemed to have no idea what a spacer was.


I am a first aid trainer and the current teaching is to assist with taking inhaler (2 puffs) and if no better within 5 mins phone an ambulance but be being an asthmatic when I am teaching about asthma i teach the 10 quick puffs through a spacer if they have one!


In addition to the standard first aid advice, alwasy listen to your patient and what advice they have been given.

e.g. if they are advised a different number of inhaler puffs, go with them, then call for help if no better. I would not suggest the 10 puffs because that is what you use if they have different advice! Stick to the FA rules. 3 to 5 minutes.

Spacers, it seems to be written in the FA manual about spacers for kids but not adults.

You can, however make an emergency spacer with a loo roll tube of a plastic / polystyrene cup with a hole in the base.


Our first aid training briefly touched on asthma but we only went into more detail because two of us have it pretty badly. I don't think it would have gone into a lot of detail if we hadn't said anything - but it's pretty important! The first aiders at my work are rubbish. They don't understand the seriousness of asthma which does worry me as I know what you mean, it's hard to say what you need when you're having an attack. It's always reassuring if they at least know a little bit!

Hope you're ok xxx


When I teach it I do go into more detail than what the lesson plans we are given (15mins)

I find with allot of the firstaiders dont have the confidence in dealing with asthma they expect us the patients to make the decisions. However as the patient we should know ourselves hat we should do and say if we need an ambulance. However I know I dont say I need an ambulance and the poeple i work with dont have the confidence to stand up and say you need to go to hospital as it is not something they dal with. But this is the same for anything making a decision when you are a first aider is hard for anything that isnt CPR or unconsious!


I've been on loads of 'Appointed Persons' first aid courses (the one-day ones), and have NEVER thought the advice given for asthma attacks was anywhere near good enough. On one the only time that asthma was mentioned was the teacher held out blue and brown inhalers and asked which should be used for an attack. Half of the room got it wrong, he never even gave the answer, just proceeded to talk about his own asthma (which gave absolutely no first aid advice). The last one I went on the teacher said the best thing to do was lie the patient down, because 'what happens when people cant breathe? They collapse'. I couldn't believe it, but I was so angry at something he'd said a minute earlier I didn't argue with him.

It's really not hard to get the basic advice over clearly! I really wish that the severity and possible consequences of asthma got taught clearly. Far too often asthma is not seen as anything serious.

It's no excuse, but if we look at the treatment that gets talked about on these boards by medical staff, no wonder the general public are confused!

I have a piece of paper in the back of my diary that says what to do in an emergency, which is specific to me. One of the points is to ask if I need an ambulance, and if I do not reply, that means 'yes'.

I hope you're on the mend Ratty.


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