Using Your Stethoscope & Medical Devices for Treating Asthma

Allergic Reactions

In this post of our series on how to use your medical devices, we’ll show you how to diagnose and treat Asthma, toxic inhalations, and allergic reactions that can close down a prepper’s airways and cause them to stop breathing.

Asthma Cilia

Lining the airways are small hair like structures called cilia.  These microscopic heroes of the war on germs, are continually clearing microbes entrapped within the mucus that’s lining the airways.  Beating in an upward direction, they bring particulate matter, viruses, bacteria and other inhaled debris trapped within the mucus, up to the throat where it can be cleared and swallowed.

Yes, this is what’s happening when you clear your throat!

This highly coordinated system starts to fail when smoke and other inhaled toxins paralyze the cilia,  thereby preventing removal of these contaminated secretions.  The consequences can range from frequent infections, to life-threatening allergic and asthma-like reactions.

The following is a high quality low cost stethoscope that I recommend for preppers and survivalists:  Click this link to purchase the Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope.

Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope

Treating Asthma

Asthma is a condition characterized by wheezing and shortness of breath.  Using your stethoscope, you’ll hear wheezing mixed in with normal soft breath sounds and sometimes rhonchi. The video below demonstrates what wheezing sounds like when listening with your stethoscope:

Better described as “reactive airway disease,” asthma is a condition where air passages suddenly spasm and constrict in response to an allergen or irritant. This is important, because will all the particulate matter and toxic fumes bound to be in the air, people without a history of Asthma are going to start wheezing  – and may go on to develop bronchitis and pneumonia.

What Causes Asthma?

While cigarette smoke has long been known to paralyze the respiratory cilia, smoke from the fires inevitable to war and catastrophes is just as toxic. Both asthma attacks and bronchitis frequently follow in the wake of such scenes.  Having no control, there’s little you can do for someone but treat these conditions as they take hold of a person.

Typically you’ll treat the wheezing part of Asthma with an inhaler.  If it was caused by an allergic reaction, you also treat the allergy with Benadryl when mild, prednisone when moderate to severe, and with an EpiPen if severe.

Asthma and Bronchospasm

Degrees of bronchoconstriction can range wildly, from mild with minimal wheezing, to a feeling of impending suffocation and the certainty of death.  Attacks of this severity often impede air movement so completely, the person can no longer even produce a wheeze.  This is bad!  You must inject the person immediately with an EpiPen.  Once they’re able to swallow, give them prednisone, Benadryl, and humidified oxygen if you have it.

Anaphylaxis & Allergy

Allergic reactions can range in severity from mild wheezing and puffy eyes – to anaphylactic shock.  It’s often said to young doctors in training: “all that wheezes is not Asthma.”  Meaning several diseases, allergens, and toxins produce this squeaking sound.

Treating Bronchospasm & Wheezing

Using an EpiPen can be lifesaving in severe reactions.  Benadryl tablets are helpful in less aggressive cases.  Like when wheezing is minimal or absent, and hives or facial swelling are the only symptoms.

Anaphylaxis and EpiPen

Prednisone falls somewhere in-between.

Prednisone is the best steroid medication to use in the field.  It’s also indispensable in the treatment of severe allergic reactions, and life-threatening asthma.  I highly recommend carrying it in your medical kit – but only using it when there is absolutely no medical help, and you have no choice. In certain people, it must not be used at all.

Prednisone Doses for Treating Asthma, Severe Allergic Reactions & Airway Edema

Allergic Reactions

Steroids like Prednisone should not be given to people who are diabetic unless they are so bad off they’d die otherwise.  Prednisone and other steroids cause their blood sugar levels to become uncontrollable.  It often takes weeks or even months for their sugar to return to manageable levels.  That’s if the complications of high blood glucose doesn’t kill them first.

A final caution regarding steroids:  You shouldn’t give them for more than three weeks at a time.  Any longer than that, and the person won’t be able to make their own cortisol – the steroid normally produced by the body – once they stop taking the pills.  Their blood pressure may plummet, and they could die.  Steroids, even at very high doses, are typically safe when given in short bursts of a week or two duration.  Any longer than that, and the prednisone will need to be tapered down to prevent hypotension and possible shock.

Remember, it’s better to give 60 mg of steroid once a day, than it is to give 30 mg twice a day.  For some reason, double the dose once a day regimes, seem to cause fewer side effects.

Why Would You Even Risk Giving Someone Steroids?

With all these warnings, why would we even discuss the use of steroids, let alone suggest the prepper medic stock plenty in their medical kit?  It’s because when you need them, in certain instances, they’re the only tools out there that can save lives.  It would be one thing if those situations were rare, but they aren’t.  Severe allergic reactions, anaphylactic shock from bee stings, upper airway closure from infectious diseases.  These are all disturbingly common, and for some reason, often occur when medical help is just not available.

Take Home Message:  Treating and Monitoring People Who Have Inhaled Toxic Fumes or are Having Allergic Lung Reactions – Use your pulse oximeter and peak flow meter to monitor the person after you’ve given them Benadryl.  If they’re not improving after a while, or are getting worsereach for your prednisone.

The Above Post Has Been Adapted from the Book Below.

Survival Medicine Book

To learn more about treating asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia – and how to use your stethoscope and pulse oximeter, click on the book image. 

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