I could write about asthma for days as this is one of the main reasons I went into medicine. I had very severe asthma when I was young and my great experiences with various doctors led me down the path of becoming a doctor. Fortunately, my asthma is now mild, as is the case with a large percent of males. Unfortunately, this is not the case with females. People are investigating it now, but we are uncertain why a large percentage of males ‘outgrow’ asthma between the ages of 14-18.
For those who are still affected by asthma, you are not alone, as 1 out of every 12 Americans has asthma. Knowing first-hand what it is like to have an asthma attack I often describe it as, “trying to breathe with an elephant on your chest.” If that's not a good enough analogy, and/or you're still curious as to what an asthma attack feels like, place a cocktail straw in your mouth and run a few blocks only breathing through the cocktail straw. The shortness in breath is a very scary thing!
When you are having an attack one of the worst things to do is to panic and start breathing very fast. This however is much easier said than done, because when you can’t breathe, you feel like you need to breathe very fast. The problem with this is that ‘old air’ gets stuck in the lungs not allowing ‘new fresh air’ to get into the lungs. You may have heard me or other people explaining that asthma is often a problem of getting air ‘out’ of the lungs. If you have uncontrolled asthma your airways are constricted and when you breathe out you are collapsing your air cavity and hence pushing down on already narrow airways.
If you find yourself having an asthma attack or others, try the following steps:
1) The best thing to do when you are having trouble breathing is to breathe out very slowly, often through pursed lips (breathing out fast and forcefully closes the airways).
2) Breathe in through the nose and watch and feel the chest and abdomen rise (breathing in slowly through your nose is important because it helps warms and humidify the air).
3) Get away from any possible asthma triggers, like smoke, animals, pollen or dust.
4) Try to relax and stay calm! If you or someone who is having a flare-up panics, it can make it even harder to breathe.
5) Sit upright. Lying down might make breathing more difficult.
6) When all else fails, use your rescue inhaler.
Asthma flare-ups can be scary, both for the person having it and anyone who sees it happening. It's important to be prepared for attacks if you suffer from asthma, but even if you don't suffer from asthma, it's still vital to be educated on it. You never know when someone around you—even a stranger—may suffer from an attack.
I told these techniques to a friend of mine who has an asthmatic daughter and she called me a few days later saying she used the technique. Ironically, it wasn’t on her daughter, but another girl having an asthmatic attack during a soccer match and she didn’t have her albuterol inhaler.
I encourage you all to share this post with friends and family members, so they too can help if they ever find themselves in a situation where an asthma attack is happening.