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What To Do When An Asthma Patient Walks In

A patient walks in and tells you she is struggling to breathe. Her chest is tight, she may have a dry cough and her skin is losing color. She’s starting to wheeze, there might be mucous secretions and she might be sweating.  


What is happening here?


If you guessed asthma, you would be correct. Millions of Americans have asthma and many will be rushed into hospitals as they fight to get air through constricted airways.


As a nurse, there’s a lot of information you must know, but we all need a refresher sometimes. Here are some key things to keep in mind about asthma.


When an asthma patient comes in, he or she may be confused and tired. This may be indicating respiratory failure.


If the patient is accompanied by friends or family members, they may be piling some panic and anxiety onto an already stressful situation.


Do your best to be calming and reassuring as you begin to provide care.


The Steps You Need to Take

Immediately assess the severity of the patient’s symptoms.

What kind of breathing sounds are they making? How efficiently is the air moving out of his or her lungs? How are their vital signs? What’s the oxygen level in the patient’s blood telling you?


Get the medical history

To some, this is a major duh, but don’t forget that medical errors was recently reported as being the third leading cause of death, so there’s no such thing as being too careful here. Be sure to learn their history of allergies, reactions to different medications and identify which medications they’re currently taking.



Provide the prescribed medications, which may include an antibiotic if there’s a respiratory infection. Monitor your patient, make sure he or she gets adequate fluids to avoid dehydration and assist with intubation if need be.


Get the Patient and Their Family On Board

Take the time to teach the patient and their family, if present, about the nature of asthma so that they understand what’s happening and what triggers the condition so they can avoid it. See to it that they understand peak flow monitoring, the proper inhalation techniques and how to administer the appropriate medications.

Make it clear to patients that one of the biggest parts of maintaining your health with asthma is following through with recommendations and continuing care. For a full refresher on how to respond to asthma patients, take our 2 contact hour course here:


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