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How to Handle an Asthma Attack Without an Inhaler

By Julie Hampton ; Updated August 14, 2017

Asthma is a respiratory illness that occurs when the bronchi in the lungs have a reaction and begin to spasm. The bronchial sacs and airways begin to fill with mucous and secretion, making breathing increasingly difficult. The skin that makes up the lungs begins to slowly swell and has a difficulty contracting and expanding when a person takes a breath. Attacks can range from mild to severe. An attack can be triggered by a variety of environmental factors such as animal dander or cigarette smoke, or can be triggered by an existing respiratory illness such as a cold.

  1. Identify the item that has caused the attack, if possible. Remove the item or remove yourself from having contact to decrease the severity of the attack.

  2. Stay calm. Remember that the attack will end and conserve energy. Focus on proper breathing techniques.

  3. Sit down and relax. Slowly inhale and exhale using pursed lips. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth—similar to blowing out a candle.

  4. Call 911 if you can no longer speak or having severe difficulty walking. Notify someone you need help by waving your hands or arms if you cannot talk. Show the person a medical identification card or bracelet if available.

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