“It’s Just A Wheeze.”
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Wheezing + Shortness of Breath = Medical Emergency
Do not downplay a wheeze. A wheeze is generated when the passages of the lungs become swollen and inflamed. This inflammation is a symptom of many health concerns, including allergic reactions, asthma, and heart issues. If a patient presents with wheezing and shortness of breath, contact your on-call practitioner immediately. If the patient appears to be struggling to breathe, call 911 first and then contact the practitioner. A wheeze with shortness of breath is not easily faked.
Obtain a Peak Flow When a Patient Reports Asthma
When an individual is booked into the jail and reports having asthma but is not wheezing or in acute distress, obtain a peak flow. This number helps the practitioner guide whether acute treatment is needed for the patient. Nursing staff is trained to obtain a peak flow when assessing a patient with possible asthma or other non-urgent breathing issues. Officers should be trained in obtaining a peak flow as well. If your jail staff need a refresher, contact your regional nurse manager to schedule a time for this training.
Call the Practitioner with Any Additional Concerns
If a patient reports a concern about asthma or inhalers, refer them to medical or contact the on-call practitioner. Jail staff should not make decisions about the seriousness of wheezing or shortness of breath. While it may not seem like a serious issue to you or your staff, it may be more than “just a wheeze.”
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All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented should be treated as guidelines, not rules. The information presented is not intended to establish a standard of medical care and is not a substitute for common sense. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice. Each situation should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.