Most asthmatics rely on medication and inhalers to manage their symptoms in the case of an asthma attack.
Unfortunately, although people suffering from asthma should always keep their inhaler with them, there are moments when their inhaler may not be within reach.
It can be very distressing and dangerous when an asthma attack hits.
Luckily, there are some non-pharmaceutical ways to regulate your breathing until you regain access to your medication.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.(source)
According to the University Of Maryland Medical Center, Asthma attacks can be triggered by a large variety of triggers, including:
- Dust, cockroach waste, pet dander, indoor and outdoor mold, and pollen.
• Air pollutants, such as smoke, perfumes, diesel particles, sulfur dioxide, high ozone levels, and fumes from paint, cleaning products, and gas stoves.
• Changes in the weather, especially in temperature (particularly cold) and humidity.
• Tobacco smoke.
• Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can trigger asthma in up to 5% of adult asthma patients.
• Activities that affect breathing, such as exercising, laughing, crying, or yelling
• Stress and anxiety
How to Manage Asthma Symptoms
Mild asthma attacks can be managed with the following simple tricks.
However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, seek emergency medical assistance as soon as possible (1) :
- Extreme difficulty breathing or stopping breathing
• Bluish color to the lips and face, called cyanosis
• Severe anxiety
• Rapid pulse
• Excessive sweating
• Decreased level of consciousness, such as drowsiness or confusion
1. Sit Upright
Lying down or hunching over can restrict air flow to your lungs. Instead, sit upwards with your back straight. This will help keep your lungs open wide and maximize the amount of air your breathe in.
2. Take Deep Breaths
Deep breaths will help control your heart rate and loosen up any tension you may have in your chest. Just sit upright, and take deep, belly breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
If you have a peak-flow-meter device that measures how much air you can expel from your lungs —use it. If you’re less than 25% off your normal mark, go on to the following steps, but if your number is off by more, get to an emergency room.
3. Stay Calm
Emotional stress can trigger or worsen asthma attacks. Stay calm by breathing deeply and using meditation or visualization. You may find it helpful to stay quiet (talking can worsen symptoms) and to find someone nearby to comfort you.
4. Get Your Nutrients
Certain vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and magnesium, can help manage asthma symptoms. Owing to its bronchodilating and anti-inflammatory effects, magnesium is an encouraging adjuvant therapy for child asthmatics (2).
According to the British Medical Journal, there is strong evidence indicating that, in some cases, vitamin C can reduce excercise-enduced bronchoconstriction by 48%.
5. Get Away From Your Triggers
This may seem obvious, but it may be difficult to do during your attack. Try to get as far away as possible from what’s triggering you without over-exerting yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you can’t get there on your own.
If possible, choose a place with filtered, temperature-controlled air and shade.
6. Have Some Coffee
Caffeine appears to improve airways function modestly, for up to four hours, in people with asthma. Caffeine is metabolized into theophylline which helps in treating and preventing asthma as it relaxes the airway. It does, however, speed up you heart rate, so stick to a cup or two to avoid hyperventilating. (source)
7. Turn On Your Shower
It’s not a good idea to take a shower if you’re having asthma symptoms, but you may get some relief from sitting in the washroom with the shower running. The hot steam will help loosen mucus.
Alternatively, use a humidifier during your attack and in your everyday life is a great way to prevent an attack from being triggered by dry air.
Bonus : Keep Company
Your asthma symptoms can quickly go from managed and mild to severe and life-threatening. Always try to keep company if you’re having an attack so that someone can call for help if you faint, begin to have severe breathing problems or start to hyperventilate.
If you’re alone, call or text a friend or family member to let them know where you are and what’s going on.
Other natural remedies include following a special diet (remove any allergens and pro-inflammatory foods), having acupuncture treatments and massage (to manage stress).