Someone pouring a cup of tea.
Research shows that consuming warm drinks, such as tea or coffee, may help loosen mucus during an asthma attack.

What to Do for Asthma Without Inhaler

Having an asthma attack can be frightening. Depending on the severity, someone can have trouble getting air into their lungs. Although it is best to have a fast-acting bronchodilator inhaler nearby, that may not always be the case. So, knowing what to do for asthma without an inhaler is important. If you do not have an inhaler, there are still steps you can take to cope with an asthma attack.

Dealing With an Asthma Attack Without an Inhaler

It is best to try to avoid finding yourself in a situation where you have a flare-up of asthma symptoms and are without your inhaler. If you have asthma, it is best to have a fast-acting inhaler, such as albuterol, available. A metered-dose inhaler is small and portable.

But there are times when you may run out of an inhaler, or you forget it at home. If you have an asthma attack and do not have your inhaler, take the following steps:

1. Stay Calm

Staying calm may be easier said than done if you are having an asthma attack. But becoming anxious only makes breathing worse.

2. Get Help

If you have an asthma attack and do not have an inhaler with you, consider getting medical help. If symptoms are mild, you may not need immediate medical care. But if you experience trouble breathing, significant chest tightness, or wheezing, get medical attention. An asthma attack can progress and may become life-threatening.

3. Stop Exercise or Activity

If you are exercising or doing some other type of strenuous activity, stop what you are doing and sit down. Exercise and strenuous activity may make it harder to breathe and catch your breath.

4. Sit Up Straight

Sitting up straight helps you open up your airways so you can take in a bigger breath. Lying down may make symptoms worse.

5. Do Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing can help you slow your respiratory rate, calm you down and prevent air trapping. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through pursed lips. Exhale for double the amount of time you inhale to remove trapped air.

6. Move Away From Triggers

In some cases, you may know what triggers an asthma attack. If possible, try to remove yourself from whatever is making your asthma worse. For instance, if lung irritants, such as tobacco smoke, trigger your symptoms, try to remove yourself from the trigger.

7. Drink a Warm Caffeinated Beverage

If possible, consider drinking a warm caffeinated drink, such as coffee or tea. The warm beverage may help loosen mucus to make it easier to cough up. Also, some studies indicate that caffeine can have a bronchodilator effect on the lungs.

It is important to understand that a cup of coffee should not replace an inhaler during an asthma attack. Also, too much caffeine may speed up the heart rate and make anxiety worse. But caffeine may provide a little help in opening airways.

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What is an Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack involves obstruction of the bronchial tubes that lead to the lungs. During a flare-up of asthma symptoms, the bronchial tubes narrow, which makes it difficult to breathe. Inflammation and swelling of the airways also develop.

Symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • Wheezing.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Coughing.
  • Anxiety.
  • Shortness of breath.

The severity of symptoms varies. Some people may have only mild symptoms. But for others, an asthma attack can become severe. What triggers an asthma attack can also vary from person to person. For example, common triggers of asthma attacks include:

  • Cold air.
  • Exercise.
  • Allergens, such as pollen.
  • Smoke.
  • Air pollution.
  • Stress.

Preventing an Asthma Attack

It is always best to try to prevent an asthma attack before it starts. Identifying your triggers is one of the most important parts of an asthma management plan. Keep a journal and write down when you have asthma symptoms, what activity you were doing and what your environment was like. Once you figure out what leads to an asthma attack, try to avoid your triggers.

If you have asthma, you should work with your doctor to develop a way to manage symptoms. This may include taking a controller medication. Controller medications prevent sudden symptoms. Medications to prevent asthma attacks may include inhaled steroids, long-acting bronchodilators, or a combination of both. Take your medications as prescribed.

It is also useful to avoid getting respiratory infections. Even a cold can lead to a flare-up of asthma symptoms. Wash your hands often, avoid being around people who are sick and consider getting your flu vaccine every year.

Also, to avoid developing an asthma attack without an inhaler, consider the following:

  • Check your fast-acting inhaler to make sure it is not empty.
  • Take an inhaler with you when you leave your house just in case you need it.
  • Make sure you check expiration dates on your inhaler to make sure it is not expired.
  • Get refills as needed.