By Dr Joel Akande
Breathlessness or in medical terms dyspnoea, calls for immediate medical intervention. Breathlessness should not be taken lightly.
In this article, we will examine, what causes breathlessness and how you may deal with it especially where there is no physician to help.
Breathlessness is also known as shortness of breath. Let us illustrate the danger in breathlessness. The air that we breathe in every second, contains oxygen that our body needs as a fuel to process our food and thus to energise our body. The minutest part of our body needs oxygen. Meanwhile, the brain can only cope for only five minutes without oxygen.
Beyond these five minutes, the brain may suffer irreparable damage. Further, if a person is suffering from breathlessness, the ability of the individual to take in enough oxygen is severely compromised. If untreated with immediate medical attention, death or lasting brain damage may result.
With these explanations in mind, we can now ask ourselves the important question:
What causes breathlessness? On this list belongs such causes as infection, obstruction by foreign body, abnormal growths, allergy and irritations, poisons, heart failure and strangulations and so forth.
Let us take each of the above in more details. Infection such as pneumonia, bronchiectasis, common cold could all lead to breathlessness.
Obstruction could occur when an individual mistakenly swallows an object such as food or water that got lodged in the airways.
This foreign body lodgement commonly occurs in children but can also happen in adults. Abnormal growths such as cancer from within the airways, nose and throat could lead to breathlessness.
Allergic reactions to food, drugs, medications and other substances may lead to breathlessness.
Irritations of the airways that are occur in fumes inhalation environment and chemical inhalations of whatever origins could cause the airways to react badly. Diseases such as asthma belongs to the allergy and irritation group.
Poisons that are taken by mouth may so act to cause severe reactions along the airways leading up to breathlessness.
Mental health disorder and diseases of the brain too can cause a person to be breathless.
In some occasions, drowning and attempted strangulations may subsequently cause breathlessness.
With all these array of issues, breathlessness is a serious clinical event.
What to do If You Have Shortness Of Breath.
A person who had swallowed a foreign body requires immediate assistance to avoid brain injury and death. Everyone in the community and the household should know how to conduct basic life support (BLS).
Should this skill be available to persons around the victim, the person skilled in Basic Life Support should offer this service urgently. Short of this, the victim should be taken to a care centre as soon as possible.
Asthma attack requires urgent intervention. The victim should take the medications that had been prescribed for him or her.
Further, I will strongly advise that the individual be taken to the nearest emergency care centre.
Fumes inhalation may decrease oxygen supply to the body. A person nearly with Basic Life Support skills could help the victim or take such person to a medical care centre for immediate attention.
In sum, breathlessness poses a risk to the sufferer. The illness may just be a symptom of an underlying dangerous disease state. In all cases, prompt attention of a competent physician is required to deal with dyspnoea.