Signs of an asthma attack
An asthma attack may be minor, but it can become dangerous very quickly.
During an attack, the airways become swollen and inflamed. The muscles surrounding the airways simultaneously contract and produce extra mucus, causing the bronchial tubes to narrow. This makes it very difficult to breathe properly.
Signs of an asthma attack include:
- coughing that won’t stop
- wheezing when breathing both in and out
- difficulty talking
- very rapid breathing
- pale, sweaty face
While asthma attacks can be very serious, treating symptoms quickly at home can help prevent them from escalating. There are several home treatments that can be effective in an emergency.
1. Caffeinated tea or coffee
The caffeine in black or green tea and coffee can help treat asthma. It works similarly to popular asthma medication theophylline, which opens up the airways. Caffeine has the ability to improve breathing function in people with asthma for up to four hours. So black tea and coffee can help with an asthma attack in an emergency when you’re without your inhaler.
The coffee or tea should be warm for faster relief.
2. Eucalyptus essential oil
Eucalyptus oil has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy for a number of conditions, and inhaling its vapor can aid those with breathing problems like asthma or bronchitis.
To use eucalyptus oil to treat asthma, put a few drops into an oil diffuser and sit near it, taking deep breaths if possible. If you don’t have an oil diffuser, boil a cup of water and add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to it. Then breathe the vapor in slowly.
Other essential oils that show promise are lavender and basil.
Because essential oils aren’t monitored by the FDA, it’s important that you research the brands you choose for purity, safety, and quality.
Essential oils may actually cause an asthma attack in those whose symptoms are easily triggered by chemical smells. So err on the side of caution, and introduce essential oils one at a time.
3. Mustard oil
For immediate asthma relief, mustard oil is one of the best emergency home remedies there is. The mustard oil we’re talking about here is the fatty oil containing isothiocyanates made from pressing the mustard seeds. This is different from mustard essential oil, which is a medicinal oil sold in small quantities that you should avoid applying directly to your skin.
Mustard seed oil can provide relief from an asthma attack and help open the air passageways, improving lung function.
Massage a mixture of warm mustard oil and salt into your chest several times daily until symptoms subside.
Mustard plasters made from mustard seed powder have a similar effect. These plasters are a poultice that has a warming sensation. Mustard plasters should be left on for less than 15 minutes, as they can burn. Check your skin often under the poultice.
4. Sitting upright
Sitting straight upright with good posture will help open up your air passageway as much as possible, allowing you to breathe more efficiently. You shouldn’t lie down, as this could make it harder to breathe. Some people find it helpful to use a chair or place to sit that has a back they can lean against.
5. Trying to take slow, deep breaths
This can be extremely challenging when you’re having an asthma attack, but it offers several benefits. The first is that it prevents hyperventilation, which is inefficient at helping you to breathe well and could result in getting less oxygen. Deep breaths also can help you stay calm, evoking a relaxing response. Staying calm can help prevent your chest from tightening up and making it even harder to breathe.
When to seek medical help
If you’re unable to get your asthma attack under control, you may need to seek emergency medical attention. Go to the nearest ER if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- severe breathlessness or wheezing, especially early in the morning or late at night
- needing to strain your chest muscles to breathe
- symptoms not subsiding after you’ve used home remedies or a rescue inhaler
- inability to speak more than short phrases because of the shortness of breath
Preventing asthma attacks
The best way to prevent asthma attacks is to avoid known irritants. Common irritants include cold air, pollen, mold, and dust.
You can also get an annual flu and pneumonia vaccine, which can help prevent asthma flare-ups caused by viruses.
As well, you should take any medications that have been prescribed to you at all times, even if you’re feeling well and haven’t had an attack lately.
Asthma attacks can become very serious very quickly, and they can come on suddenly. Because of this, you should have a plan in place established with your doctor that has you prepared for any potential future attacks. This will help you or your loved ones to act quickly, keeping symptoms at bay and preventing them from escalating.