Asthma attacks can be scary no matter the circumstances. If you are wheezing or having difficulty breathing, your first actions should always be to do what your doctor has advised (often taking a rescue inhaler or other medication).
However, your inhaler may not always be at hand. Here are some steps you can take to minimize your chance of complications from an asthma attack whether or not you have your rescue inhaler nearby.
1) Stay Calm
Staying calm during an asthma attack can lessen the symptoms and help clear your head for next steps. If you find yourself panicking, take a second, breathe, and assess your situation. There's always something you can do to help. While some level of nerves is always going to be present during an attack, remember that you are better off with a level head.
2) Seek Medical Help
If the situation escalates, always seek immediate medical attention. This can happen when your lips go blue, you cannot speak, your breathing worsens and wheezing stops, or the asthma attack just feels to severe to deal with on your own. Immediately call 911 (or have a friend call 911) or have a friend drive you to urgent care (or both). Medical professionals will be best able to assess your condition and send the appropriate help.
3) Get a Friend
It can be hard to manage everything when having an asthma attack. It's best to get a friend or family member to help you through it. Try to get this buddy at the start of an asthma attack in case it gets worse. Make sure to explain to them the type of medication you use, your symptoms, and any emergency plan you might have. If you are in a public place, you may want to alert the store manager, or find a security guard or police man. Don't be afraid to cause a fuss.
4) Sit Upright
When faced with a stressful situation, you might feel the need to lie down or hunch over. Don't! If you feel an asthma attack coming on, sit straight up and stay that way. You want to open your airways and give as much room to your lungs as possible.
5) Take Slow, Deep Breaths
While your instincts might tell you to breathe as quickly as possible, your best bet is to slow down. Focus on your breathing, making sure to inhale and exhale as deeply as possible. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Breathing too quickly can cause hyperventilation, which can exacerbate some symptoms.
6) Get Away From the Trigger
Often times, asthma attacks are started by exposure to a certain trigger. Try to identify the trigger and get away from it as soon as possible. If you aren't sure what the trigger is, you may want to change locations anyway. Try to go to an air-conditioned environment or another place with clean air.
Common triggers include:
- Cigarette or Cigar Smoke
- Air Pollution
- Chemicals (particularly around pools and cleaning products)
7) Drink Some Coffee or Tea
Take a moment and drink some tea. Not only will a hot, caffeinated drink help calm your nerves, but the caffeine can open up your airways for a short while. The steam can also help to loosen mucus in your lungs and relax your airways.
When the asthma attack is over, you may want to call your doctor to discuss what happened. If this is a frequent occurrence, then it may be time to discuss additional steps or try a different medication.
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