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Asthma Attack First Aid and Home Remedies

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Aug 11, 2020

    Asthma Attack First Aid and Home Remedies

    For those living with asthma, knowing asthma attack first aid measures is essential.

    An asthma attack is a worsening effect of asthma symptoms. It happens when the muscles in the air tubes spasm, and the airway linings inflame. Thicker mucus develops in the airway, blocking the inward and outward flow of oxygen. 

    When air is trapped in the lungs, a person with asthma has trouble breathing, and experiences chest pains. Depending on the severity of the attack, some may occur suddenly or slowly, while others stop for a while, and come back after a few hours with greater effect.

    If a person with asthma is having an attack, it is best if the people around are also well-informed about asthma attack first aid. When the asthma attack becomes severe, do not hesitate to seek medical attention.

    Asthma attack “triggers”

    Before asthma becomes an asthma attack, it starts with a “trigger” or a cause. The common risk factor that sets off an asthma attack is  inhaled triggers. 

    Some of these triggers are:

    • Allergens
      • Indoor allergens like house dust, dust mites, molds, pet hair
      • Outdoor allergens like pollen, cigarette smoke, pollution, molds, weather 
  • Food and food additives like cow’s milk, peanuts, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shrimp and other shellfish, tree nuts
  • Physical Activity
  • Respiratory infections
  • Certain medications like aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen and some blood pressure medications
  • Extreme emotions 
  • Irritants (Aerosol sprays, perfumes, car exhaust, gas fumes)
  • Recognizing Asthma Signs and Symptoms 

    To perform asthma attack first aid, one must first recognize that there are different signs and symptoms of asthma attacks, according to their severity. For a person with asthma to manage their symptoms, it is best to consult with a doctor and create an action plan. 

    Some indicators that an asthma attack is about to happen includes:

    • Fatigue
    • Cough and colds
    • Tightness in the chest
    • wheezing

    Someone having a common asthma attack may suffer the following:

    • Shortness of breath (causing inability to sleep or do activities)
    • Chest pain
    • Coughing or wheezing
    • Difficulty speaking

    Signs that an asthma attack is worsening include the following:

    • Breathlessness even when lying down
    • Changes in heart rate
    • Bluish lips resulting from low oxygen in the blood
    • Tightness of neck and shoulder muscles
    • Low blood pressure
    • Panic, anxiety, and confusion
    • Silent asthma or absence of wheezing due to lack of airflow

    If a person with asthma suffers from severe symptoms, do not hesitate to call a physician and ask for prompt medical attention in addition to performing asthma attack first aid. Severe asthma very rarely can become fatal. In some cases, the person may require immediate hospitalization.

    Can an Asthma Attack Be Prevented?

    Prevention is better than cure.  To prevent asthma attacks from becoming worse, there are steps you have to follow and commit to. You should create an asthma action plan together with your medical provider.

    Here are ways to prevent an asthma attack:

    • Take the prescribed medications provided by your physician.
    • Identify and locate your asthma triggers and avoid them as much as possible.
    • Record the symptoms you feel.
    • Get follow-up checkups for your asthma.
    • Map out an action plan with your doctor to monitor your medicine intake, symptoms, and the things you must do when undergoing an asthma attack.
    • Keep an eye on your breathing pattern. A slight change in breathing can be a sign of the beginning of an asthma attack.
    • Check your intake of inhaled medications. If you are using your inhaler more often than normal, you might want to ask your doctor to regulate your intake. 

    Asthma attacks can still happen even if one strictly follows these prevention tips. To keep you ready for asthma attacks, there are first aid procedures and home remedies that you can do or use to manage the situation. 

    Asthma attack first aid

    Here are four steps for asthma attack first aid:

    1. Help the person sit comfortably. 
    2. Hand in a blue reliever inhaler (this a quick-relief medication or known as rescue medication or emergency inhaler) to the patient and follow the steps on how to give the proper dosage. The usual dose is 2 inhalations (puffs), or up to 4 inhalations if really severe (meaning short of breath when sitting still)
    3. Rest for four minutes. If the situation continues, repeat the previous step.
    4. If the condition is severe, call an emergency number and let the operator know that someone is having an asthma attack. Keep giving the patient the medication every four minutes until the ambulance arrives. 

    Home remedies for asthma attack

    When you find yourself at home and asthma kicks in, natural remedies and treatments can help you go through the episode. These include:

    Steam baths and sauna treatments

    Researchers at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Balneology and Climatology have found that having steam baths and saunas can help improve asthma symptoms by softening the thick mucus that clings on airways, which can improve breathing. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety that may trigger asthma. 

    Breathing exercises

    Learning how to properly breathe is a great way to help minimize asthma attacks. Research points to breathing exercises as a way of improving breathing problems, relieving mental stress, and reducing the use of medications. 

    Breathing Exercises To Reduce Asthma Attacks

    Herbal alternatives

    Herbs and natural alternatives like garlic, ginger, echinacea and licorice root, turmeric, honey, and omega 3’s. It is always best to consult your doctor before giving these a try.

    Essential oils like eucalyptus and lavender

    These are mainly used for their anti-inflammatory properties. Essential oils and other natural alternatives must not be used during emergencies. Check with your medical provider if these are safe for you.

    Caffeinated tea and coffee

    Theophylline, a chemical found in both asthma medications and caffeine is said to reduce respiratory fatigue, which weakens asthma symptoms. 

    Key Takeaways

    Asthma attacks must be taken seriously at all times. Knowing asthma attack first aid is essential. Weaker symptoms may become severe in a matter of seconds. Being ready and well informed is the first step to dealing with asthma attacks. 

    Although there are first aid and home remedies for asthma attacks, having your medications ready and consistently checking up with your doctor will always be the best way to deal with asthma.

    Learn more about asthma, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

    General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

    Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Aug 11, 2020

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