fifteen year old chris is having a severeasthma attack. his immune system has made what could be a fatal mistake ("i can't breathe") and is shutting down his airways. ("i really can't breathe") without help from the medical team, chris' body may shut down completely ("i'm going to die").the breathing tubes in chris' chest are squeezing tightly shut, and filling with sticky mucus,blocking his vital oxygen supply. if he is not treated soon, he will die. here's a reallylife-threatening episode of asthma. asthma is pretty common in our community, and mostof the time it's not this life-threatening, but this one is quite serious. chris' allergicreaction has tricked his immune system into shutting down his airways, blocking vitaloxygen to the rest of his body. the drugs are supposed to help the muscles around chris'airways to relax, but there is a problem.
the mucus stops the drugs from reaching his blood supply. time is running out - chris' body takes emergency action. his shoulders and neck muscles swinginto action to help inflate his lungs, but even this is not working. as the pressuremounts, the team must find a treatment to get the drugs past the mucus. chris is byno means an isolated case. one in nine australian children suffer from asthma, but for christhe situation is looking dangerous. chris is currently having ventolin or salbutamolthrough a nebuliser which is breathing into his lungs. this acts on the muscles aroundthe small airways and helps to open them up. unfortunately sometimes when the airways arevery closed down, the salbutamol doesn't reach the areas that it needs to get to. if the inhaledventolin is not working, then we often will go
to a different form of medication - againa relaxant for the muscles around the small airways, and it helps to open those airwaysup, and it's given as a one-off dose over about 10-15 minutes in severe asthma. inside chris' body, theairways start to open as the drugs take effect. air finally returns to chris' lungs, inflatingthe three hundred million tiny airsacs. at last, he can breathe. chris seems to be feelinga lot better now. the intravenous medication seem to have taken effect. he still is verytired, because he's been working very hard with his breathing, but we're a lot happierwith his clinical progress now. chris was admitted to intensive care for three days,with a further three days in a medical ward before being sent home. he is now back atschool, playing soccer, and is aware that
it is important to look after his asthma andtell his teachers and family when he's not well. chris had always expected other peopleto look after his asthma, but after this emergency, he now understands that he must recognisewhen he is having asthma and follow his asthma action plan. before leaving hospital, chrislearned what asthma is, how to manage his triggers, what his medications do, and howto use them correctly. chris now uses a spacer to have his medication. he also learnt howto recognise when his asthma was worse, and the need to follow his asthma action plan.chris has taken control of his asthma.