Asthma attack can be quite scary as a person struggles to breath, feels chest pain, tightness with coughing and wheezing. The chronic condition can cause the airways in the lungs to become inflamed which can make it difficult to move air in and out. Watching your loved one go through this extreme discomfort can be difficult but one must act quickly in case of an asthma attack if the symptoms don't get better after taking medication. Apart from contacting your doctor or rushing the person to a hospital emergency right away Dr Harish Chafle, Senior Consultant - Pulmonology and Critical Care at Global Hospital, Parel, Mumbai suggests the following steps that must be taken before an ambulance arrives. (Also read: World Asthma Day 2022: Pollution to Covid; common triggers of asthma as per experts)
How to give asthma first aid
• Make them sit upright comfortably and loosen tight clothing.
• If the person has asthma medication, such as an inhaler, help them take it.
• If the person doesn’t have an inhaler, use one from a first aid kit. Do not borrow someone else’s. The medicine in it may be different than the needed rescue medicine. Also, using someone else's inhaler has a slight risk of passing on an infection.
Use an inhaler with a spacer, if possible
• Remove the cap and shake the inhaler well.
• Insert the inhaler into the spacer.
• Have the person breathe out completely and put their mouth tightly around the spacer mouthpiece.
• Press the inhaler once to deliver a puff.
• Have the person breathe in slowly through their mouth and hold their breath for 10 seconds.
• Give a total of four puffs, waiting about a minute between each puff.
Use an inhaler without a spacer, if necessary.
• Remove the inhaler cap and shake well.
• Have the person breathe out all the way and seal their lips tightly around the inhaler mouthpiece.
• As the person starts to breathe in slowly, press down on the inhaler one time.
• The person should keep breathing in as slowly and deeply as possible (about 5 to 7 seconds) and then hold their breath for 10 seconds.
• Give a total of four puffs, waiting about 1 minute between each puff.
Continue using the inhaler if breathing is still a problem.
• After four puffs, wait 4 minutes. If the person still has trouble breathing, give another set of four puffs.
• If there’s still little or no improvement, give four to eight puffs every 20 minutes until the ambulance arrives, for up to 4 hours. If you are still waiting for help after 4 hours, the recommended dose is four to eight puffs as needed every 1 to 4 hours.
Monitor the person until help arrives.
• Do not mistake drowsiness as a sign of improvement; it could mean asthma is getting worse.
• Do not assume that the person’s asthma is improving if you no longer hear wheezing.
• An emergency room doctor will check the severity of the attack and give treatment, including medications.
• The person may be sent home or stay in the hospital for further care, depending on their response to treatment.
Here are some home remedies that one can follow in case of asthma attack, suggested by Dr Harish Chafle.
Sit up straight: Sitting up straight will help to open the airways, making it easier for air to move through the lungs. Remaining calm is essential. The body’s natural stress response, sometimes called “fight or flight” mode, can make symptoms worse.
Breathing exercises: The purpose of these exercises is to reduce the number of breaths, keeping the airways open longer and making it easier to breathe.
Pursed lip breathing
- Breathe in through the nose.
- Breathe out through pursed lips. The exhale should be at least twice as long as the inhale.
- Breathe in through the nose with hands placed on the belly.
- With relaxed neck and shoulders, breathe out. The exhale should last two or three times longer than the inhale.
Don't fall for internet tricks
Many emergency home remedies are suggested on the internet. However, these are usually not supported by scientific evidence.
• Caffeine: Some suggest that caffeine can help to treat asthma, because it is closely related to an older drug. A review of the available evidence in 2001 found that caffeine appeared to modestly improve lung function for up to 4 hours. The authors concluded that a person may need to avoid caffeine before a lung function test. There is no evidence that it helps with an acute asthma attack.
• Eucalyptus oil: Some researchers have suggested that that inhaling eucalyptus oil may help to ease symptoms of asthma. However, no studies have considered the effectiveness during an attack. Keep in mind that eucalyptus may instead trigger asthma symptoms in some people.