How to Control an Asthma Attack When Caught Without an Inhaler

Breathing is so automatic for most people that we hardly ever give it a second thought. If you have asthma, or if your child has asthma, though, you never take breathing for granted.

When you suffer from asthma, your airways narrow and swell and can even produce extra mucus, all of which make breathing difficult. Asthma can also cause lots of wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

This is especially true if you experience a full-blown asthma attack. Most people with asthma try to keep a rescue inhaler with them so they can have quick access to medicine such as albuterol, which can control their symptoms.

But what if you have an asthma attack while you don’t have your inhaler with you? This can be a dangerous situation, but at Sulkowski Family Medicine, we’ve learned a few tips over the years that can help you out. Here’s what we recommend:

Sit up straight

You may want to lie down while you’re having an attack, but fight that urge and sit up straight or even stand up. This opens up your airways as much as possible — lying down can actually make the attack worse.

Stay calm and steady your breathing

This is hard, but panic and stress can make the attack worse, so do your best to stay calm and take as many deep, steady breaths as you can. You may want to watch TV or play some music to keep you distracted while you wait for your symptoms to ease.

Move away from the trigger

Hopefully you know your asthma triggers, such as cigarette smoke, dust, or the smell of certain chemicals. These triggers can continue to make your attack worse, so if you’re in the midst of an attack, put as much distance between yourself and any triggers you see as quickly as you can.

Drink a hot, caffeinated beverage

Hot, caffeinated drinks like coffee can help open up your airways a little for a couple of hours. Don’t use this trick regularly in place of medicine, but it may help if you don’t have a rescue inhaler with you.

Call 911

Don’t forget one of the best resources you have: 911. If your symptoms continue to get worse, you can’t speak, your face or lips are getting blue, or your shortness of breath is getting severe, pick up the phone and call 911 to get some immediate help.

Once your attack is over, make sure you go see your doctor as soon as possible. Your attack means that your asthma may not be fully under control, so you may need an adjustment in your medications. You should also be sure to stay on whatever medications your doctor prescribes — don’t stop taking them just because your asthma seems better for a while. You want your body to be ready to fight off an asthma attack at any time.

If you need to see a doctor about your asthma, Dr. Thomas Sulkowski has the experience and compassion to serve you well. Just call our office or use our handy online scheduler to set up an appointment, and we’ll have you breathing normally again in no time.

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