Living with someone who has asthma and witnessing an asthma attack are two different things entirely. More often than not, caregivers never see a full-blown asthma attack. But when they do, they are left shocked and clueless.

It may appear that the patient may choke to their death in minutes. But in reality, an asthma attack can be painstakingly slow.

If you or someone close to you has asthma, then here are a few tips on how to deal with an asthma attack.

Understand the attack

There’s a widespread notion that an asthma attack is always associated with wheezing. That’s not always the case. Many a time, the muscles in the airway get constricted so badly that the person may not be able to breathe at all.

And unless they breathe, how can there be wheezing noise?

The first thing that you need to do as caregivers or even if you are the person suffering from the attack is to identify the severity of the condition.

While a mild attack can easily be controlled at home, a severe one can be life threatening and needs emergency medical attention.

Mild attacks can have symptoms like a sudden tinge of blue to the lips and inability to speak coherently while a person can collapse in a severe attack and their skin might seem to be sucked in between the ribs. If it is a severe attack, seek emergency medical help.

Five basic steps

Here’s what you need to do in case the attack is a mild one.

Help them stay calm

You need to reassure the patient that things are going to be fine and that you are there to help. More importantly, you need to stay calm yourself. Panic and anxiety can aggravate an attack that has already begun. Appear confident and in control of the situation. It will help the patient to relax.

Help them sit straight

If they are lying down or have fallen on the floor while gasping for breath, help them to sit straight in an upright position. This reduces the chances of their airways getting obstructed due to the posture.

Move them away from the trigger if possible

Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things. If you are aware of the trigger, try to move the person away from it. For example, if someone is smoking in the room, move them out of the room or if it is triggered by exercise, ask them to stop immediately. Move them into an airy and well ventilated space. If you are unaware of the trigger, ask the patient.

Check for the asthma emergency plan

Asthma patients may have an emergency plan on them. Search the person for the plan and follow the instructions printed on it. It may involve the use of rescue inhalers and other anti-inflammatory medications. Administer the medication with the help of the patient. Also, if you feel that the symptoms are not decreasing even after the use of rescue inhalers, then contact an emergency room immediately.

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