What To Do (And What NOT To Do) During An Asthma Attack

If you are one of the 25 million Americans with asthma, you know how scary an asthma attack is. While we commonly think of asthma as a condition experienced by children, adults not only suffer from asthma, but are five times more likely to die from it. The good news is that asthma attacks are largely preventable due to our ability to diagnose patients early and to treat them preventatively and effectively with evidence-based immunological approaches. While our goal would be to manage your asthma so you do not experience attacks, it is important to know the symptoms of an imminent attack and what to do if you experience one, so you can get the treatment and support you need. Here’s what to do and, just as importantly, what not to do in the case of an asthma attack.


Top Signs You’re About To Have An Asthma Attack

In the movies, asthma attacks seem to come on very fast and quickly result in the complete inability to breathe. In reality, there are a variety of symptoms that can lead to an asthma attack, as well as ways to spot one before it becomes a life or death situation. What we actually need to be looking for are signs that your asthma is not being adequately controlled, so we can avoid an attack. Here are some of the top signs to look for:


Early Symptoms

  • More frequent nighttime wakings
  • Inability to perform normal activities or exercise
  • Using a rescue inhaler more than 3 times per week
  • Not achieving the markers set in your treatment plan by your specialist, such as your peak flow numbers 


More Serious Symptoms

  • Using your rescue inhaler every 4 hours or more
  • Difficulty breathing, talking or walking
  • Tight chest, cough and/or wheezing
  • Peak flow numbers are below the range set in your treatment plan by your specialist


What To Do (And What Not To Do) In The Case of An Asthma Attack


Don’t dismiss your symptoms.

Symptoms differ between patients and between attacks. At the first sign that your asthma is not being controlled, call your specialist to check in on your treatment plan. 

Do stay calm.

Take slow, deep breaths, sitting upright so as not to constrict your breathing.

Don’t panic.

Panicking can cause you to take fast, shallow breaths which can worsen symptoms.

Don’t take too much or the wrong medication.

Take your medication as directed, taking the time to ensure it’s the correct medication, and always follow the protocol set by your specialist on how to use your rescue inhaler.

Do get away from triggers.

Once the situation is under control, move to an air-conditioned location where you are away from smoke, fumes or other respiratory irritants.

Don’t neglect to follow up with your doctor.

Even if your symptoms resolve after using your rescue inhaler, you should always follow up with your specialist in the case of a serious incident like an asthma attack, as it is a sign that your condition is not being adequately controlled and they may need to alter your treatment plan.


You should call 9-1-1 if, after 6-8 puffs of your rescue inhaler your condition continues to worsen, your lips turn blue or your skin appears “sucked in” near your ribs or neck. 

Getting To The Root of Asthma Attacks

At Family Allergy Asthma Clinic, we know that asthma, allergy and other immunological conditions are caused by a root issue that must be determined before an effective treatment plan can be put in place. We’ve seen firsthand that accurate diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan can create lasting relief for asthma sufferers, allowing them to live a full, satisfying life without the constant fear of an asthma attack. If you’re ready to take control of your asthma, so are we. Reach out to us here.

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