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What Should I Do During An Asthma Attack?

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 17:07

Ideally, your early warning signs such as a feeling of tightness in your chest, wheezing, coughing, and restlessness while trying to sleep will have given you the extra time you need to take the steps outlined in your personal action plan.

If the episode is just beginning:

  1. Follow the instructions in your action plan. Take the medicines your doctor has prescribed to keep the episode from getting worse.
  2. Pay close attention to the type of medication being taken. Because of the feeling of urgency and distress during an asthma attack, people sometimes mistakenly use their preventer medicine. This will not help the symptoms of an asthma attack. The reliever drug at the dose prescribed is what is needed. Make note of the color of the two different kinds of inhalers and make sure you use the one containing the reliever medicine.
  3. Relax your breathing.
  4. Use pursed-lip breathing.
  5. Cough to loosen mucus in the airways and cough again to bring it up. Spit out the mucus into tissues.
  6. Call your doctor if the attack is getting worse and you have taken the proper medicine and done everything else you can think of. This is not a time to feel embarrassed or ashamed. If you have followed the action plan and you are still having an asthma episode, it's time to seek medical attention. Don't wait too long to get a doctor's help when needed.

Need To Know:

Your preventer medication will not be of help in a severe asthma attack. Be sure you are using the reliever medication, not the preventer medication.

How-To Information

Relaxing in order to breathe more easily is not easy in a situation where fear, anxiety, and anger are natural feelings. But it can be done with practice:

  • Start by sitting comfortably in a chair. Do not lie down.
  • Relax your shoulders and neck. Concentrate on not gasping for air as you drop your shoulders.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose. Concentrate.
  • Purse your lips together tightly the way a trumpet player does, and blow out slowly through your mouth. Take as much time as possible to exhale in this way.
  • Relax. Keep using the pursed-lip breathing until the breathless feeling goes away. Rest between breaths if you feel dizzy.


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