| -3°C Dublin

Nine out of 10 couldn't help in asthma attack

Almost nine out of 10 people would not feel comfortable helping a child who was suffering an asthma attack, a poll suggested today.

Some 88pc would not feel completely confident in knowing what to do, according to the survey of more than 2,200 people to mark World Asthma Day.

In March, an inquest into the death of Sam Linton ruled that neglect at Offerton High School in Stockport "significantly contributed" to his death.

Five members of staff were suspended after the 11-year-old was left in a corridor struggling to breathe following an asthma attack.

The inquest heard that no member of staff called 999 and he later died.

"Knowing how to deal with an asthma attack is vitally important for every person with asthma," said Dr Jean Holohan, chief executive of the Irish Asthma Society.

Asthma causes deaths amounting to the equivalent of a large classroom full of children every year, and 1.1 million under-15s suffer from the condition in the UK.

A survey among 1,600 teachers across England in February 2009 also found that three-quarters did not feel confident in knowing what to do.

Neil Churchill, chief executive of Asthma UK, which released the polls, said: "The complacency that exists about asthma in the UK is shocking and dangerous and cannot continue.

"Every member of the public needs to know the signs of worsening asthma and what steps to take if someone suffers an asthma attack.

"Not acting quickly enough can result in needless deaths that shatter lives."

Asthmatics suffering an attack can often find that their reliever inhaler (usually a blue-coloured one) does not help symptoms.

Breathlessness can get worse and be accompanied by coughing, wheezing and a tight chest. Some people become too breathless to speak, eat or sleep.

If somebody is suspected of having an attack, they should be encouraged to take their reliever inhaler immediately.

If there is no immediate improvement, one puff of the inhaler should be taken every minute for five minutes or until symptoms improve.

But if symptoms do not improve in this time -- or there is doubt about whether the procedure is working -- people should call a doctor or 999.

One puff of an inhaler should then be taken every minute until help arrives.