Breathing Easy: Your Five-Step Guide to Handling an Asthma Attack

26 May 2024

Asthma. A term that’s all too familiar in many Indian households. It’s a condition marked by breathlessness, wheezing and a chest that feels as tight as a drum. But what do you do when an asthma attack strikes? How you react during those crucial moments truly makes a difference, often determining the severity of the attack.

Understanding how to handle an asthma attack is as important as recognising symptoms of an asthma attack or asthma attack triggers. This is essential not only for individuals who suffer from it but also for those around them. Many of us are unequipped with the knowledge necessary to manage such situations effectively. This lack of awareness can lead to unnecessary panic, escalating the situation even further. Thus, our aim here is to bridge this knowledge gap and arm you with practical, easy-to-follow steps so that you can take control when an asthma attack strikes.

As we delve deeper into this topic, we will discuss the top five things to do during an asthma attack. From recognising early warning signs to knowing when to seek medical help, these key points offer a comprehensive guide to managing an asthma crisis confidently. So, let’s get started on this journey towards being better prepared for asthma attacks.

Understanding Your Inhaler: The Lifesaver in Your Pocket

If you are someone who has asthma, you’re no stranger to the little device that helps you breathe more comfortably – your inhaler. It’s vital to know how to use it accurately when symptoms such as coughing or wheezing and chest tightness in an asthma attack begin to surface. If the proper technique isn’t followed, you might not get the right dose of medicine. Start by shaking the inhaler well, then hold it upright. Take a deep breath and breathe out fully, put the mouthpiece in your mouth and close your lips around it. As you start to breathe in slowly, press down on the top of the inhaler.

Remember not to rush; slow, steady breaths are key here, even if you’re experiencing coughing in an asthma attack. After breathing in, hold your breath for about ten seconds to let the medicine get to your lungs. Repeat this process until you’ve taken the recommended number of puffs. Always follow your doctor’s instructions on how many puffs to take during an attack.

Sitting Comfortably: The Right Posture Matters

Surprisingly, your posture can affect how well you’re able to breathe during an asthma attack. When you’re experiencing shortness of breath or coughing during an asthma attack, instinct might make you lean forward or lie down; however, these positions may not ease your breathing as much as sitting straight does. Sitting straight helps open up your airways and lets more air in and out of your lungs.

Try this: When experiencing shortness of breath during an asthma attack, sit on a chair or the edge of your bed, keep your feet flat on the floor and relax your shoulders. Lean slightly forward but keep your back straight. This should help you take deeper breaths and manage your symptoms better.

Breathing Techniques: Take Control Back

Learning specific breathing techniques can help you regain control during an asthma attack. These techniques focus on slowing down your breathing and preventing hyperventilation (breathing too quickly), which would otherwise intensify your symptoms. One popular method is called pursed-lip breathing, which involves inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through puckered lips.

Just remember, these techniques aren’t a substitute for using your inhaler or seeking medical help. They’re meant to complement your existing treatment plan. Practice them regularly, so they come naturally when you need them the most.

Seeking Help: Know When To Call Your Doctor

A woman having a video consultation with her doctor

An asthma attack can escalate quickly, and sometimes using your inhaler and applying the techniques above might not be enough. It’s important to seek medical help if you’re not feeling any better after using your inhaler as directed or if you’re feeling worse. Always have your doctor’s number handy so you can contact them immediately in such situations.

Remember, it’s better to reach out for help than to struggle alone. Ignoring worsening symptoms could lead to severe complications. So, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or head over to the nearest emergency room.

Looking Ahead: Stepping Up Your Asthma Management

Lastly, experiencing an asthma attack is a clear sign that you need to revisit your asthma management plan with your doctor. Perhaps there’s a trigger you need to avoid, or maybe your treatment plan needs tweaking. Regular follow-ups with your doctor will help keep your asthma under control and prevent future attacks.

Regular exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding triggers are just some ways of managing your asthma effectively. Remember, everyone’s experience with asthma is unique, so what works for one person might not work for another. Stay patient, keep learning about your condition, and trust in your doctor’s guidance.

Facing an asthma attack can be a daunting experience, but armed with the right knowledge and preparation, you can manage it effectively. We’ve discussed the top five things to do during an asthma attack, from recognising symptoms early and using your reliever inhaler, to positioning yourself correctly and avoiding triggers. Remember, the key is to remain calm, as panic can potentially worsen your symptoms. Understanding these steps can mean the difference between a minor disruption and a major health crisis.

At TatvaCare, we’re dedicated to helping you navigate health challenges like these. We understand the fear that can come with an asthma attack and are committed to providing resources that help you stay informed and prepared. Don’t let the fear of sudden worsening of asthma symptoms control your life. Empower yourself with knowledge and take the first step towards achieving control over your health today. If you want to learn more about how to handle conditions like asthma or any health-related concerns, we’re just a click away. Get in touch with us at tatvacare.in – because your health matters to us as much as it does to you!


Q. What’s the first thing I should do when I feel an asthma attack starting?

A: When an asthma attack starts, it’s essential to stay calm. Panicking can worsen your symptoms. Use your prescribed reliever inhaler right away. This inhaler works to relax the muscles in your airways and helps you breathe more easily.

Q. If my symptoms don’t improve after using my inhaler, what should I do next?

A: If your symptoms don’t improve within a few minutes of using your inhaler, or if they worsen, it’s time to call for medical help immediately. Reach out to your nearest doctor or healthcare facility. In India, you can dial 102 or 108 for emergency medical services.

Q. How can I make myself comfortable during an asthma attack?

A: During an asthma attack, try sitting up and avoid lying down as it could make breathing more difficult. Use cushions if needed to prop yourself up. Take slow, steady breaths and try not to speak unless necessary to conserve energy and focus on your breathing.

Q. Is there anything I can do to help prevent an asthma attack from getting worse?

A: Yes, taking slow, controlled breaths can help prevent hyperventilation and manage the severity of an asthma attack. It can also be useful to have a written asthma action plan from your doctor that outlines what medication to take and when during an attack.

Q. Can someone else assist me during my asthma attack?

A: Yes, informing others about your condition and what to do during an attack can be helpful. They can help you remain calm, perform breathing exercises or even assist with administering your inhaler or nebuliser, ensuring timely medical help if needed.

About the Author

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Devina Aswal

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