There are no home remedies for an asthma attack. Asthma is managed with medications, by avoiding triggers, and by creating an asthma action plan with your doctor.
Keep a rescue inhaler on hand for immediate relief during an attack. Check the date on the pump regularly to make sure it hasn’t expired.
Asthma attacks are potentially life-threatening. Seek emergency medical attention if your symptoms don’t improve after using the rescue inhaler.
Internet claims that tout home remedies for asthma are not backed by any scientific evidence. We’ll explain some of those remedies, why people think they work, where the evidence is lacking, and what you should actually do during an asthma attack.
An asthma attack may be minor, but it can become dangerous very quickly.
During an attack, the airways narrow due to swelling and inflammation, and the muscles around them tighten.
The body also produces extra mucus, restricting the air passing through the bronchial tubes, which makes it very difficult to breathe properly.
Signs of an asthma attack include:
- coughing that won’t stop
- wheezing when breathing out
- shortness of breath
- very rapid breathing
- pale, sweaty face
Treating symptoms quickly may help prevent an asthma attack from getting worse. If symptoms don’t improve, seek emergency medical help.
During an asthma attack:
- do your best to keep calm
- take a puff of your rescue medication inhaler
- stand or sit up straight
Standing up can help increase airflow compared to sitting or lying down, according to a 2013 study.
A peak flow meter measures airflow from your lungs and can help determine if your symptoms are getting better.
If your breathing doesn’t improve within several minutes of using the rescue inhaler, or if you begin to feel drowsy, it’s time to seek emergency help.
Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. Call 911 if you’re alone. Keep taking puffs on the inhaler until help arrives.
Often, a rescue inhaler is enough to treat an asthma attack.
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:
- extreme shortness of breath or wheezing, especially in the morning or at night
- needing to strain your chest muscles to breathe
- symptoms not subsiding after you’ve used a rescue inhaler
- having difficulty speaking
Some people believe complementary treatments can help with asthma.
But there’s no scientific research to show that these remedies will treat an asthma attack, according to the
Examples of such remedies include:
1. Caffeinated tea or coffee
The caffeine in black or green tea and coffee is believed to help treat asthma. It works similarly to the popular asthma medication theophylline, which opens up the airways.
A 2010 research review, the most recent available, found that caffeine may slightly improve breathing function in people with asthma for up to 4hours.
Still, there isn’t enough evidence to show whether caffeine can improve asthma symptoms.
2. Eucalyptus essential oil
According to a 2013 research review, essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat asthma. One of these is eucalyptus essential oil.
It’s important to note that research has found that essential oils, including eucalyptus, release potentially dangerous chemicals. More evidence is needed, but these substances may make asthma symptoms worse.
Because the FDA doesn’t monitor essential oils, it’s also important that you research the brands you choose for:
Remember to use caution when trying essential oils. Never use an essential oil if you’re having an asthma attack.
3. Lavender essential oil
Lavender is another essential oil that shows promise.
As with other alternative treatments, lavender oil should not be used in an emergency.
4. Breathing exercises
A 2014 research review indicated that regular breathing training may improve asthma symptoms and mental well-being. It may also lower the need for rescue medications.
The exercises aim to reduce hyperventilation. They can include:
- breathing through the nose
- slow breathing
- controlled holding of breath
More research is needed on the effectiveness of breathing exercises for asthma. This is not a technique to use during an attack.
Asthma often develops from the immune system responding to an allergen in the environment. Reactions may vary between different people, possibly due to genetics.
Symptoms can flare up in an asthma attack. Common asthma triggers include:
- animal fur
- smoke, including tobacco smoke
- air pollution
- cold air
- emotions, like stress, that can cause hyperventilation
- having the flu or a cold
- physical exercise
If you don’t regularly manage your asthma, such as with preventive medications, you may also be more likely to have an asthma attack.
The best way to prevent asthma attacks is to avoid known irritants.
The most effective thing you can do in your home is to remove or reduce your known triggers.
Depending on your specific triggers, ways to minimize them may include:
- keeping your house clean to reduce dust and mold
- keeping windows closed and staying inside if air quality is poor
- quitting smoking, if you smoke, and avoiding secondhand smoke
- avoiding burning wood in a stove or fireplace
- bathing your pets weekly and keeping them out of your bedroom
You should take any medications that have been prescribed to you, even if you’re feeling well and haven’t had an attack lately.
Regular appointments with your doctor will help them:
- evaluate your asthma
- change your treatment, if needed, to help manage your asthma
- check that you’re using your inhaler properly
It’s helpful to work with your doctor to create an asthma plan. It’s also important to follow its instructions when you notice signs of an attack.
Your plan should include:
- a description of triggers that can cause an attack
- how to recognize an attack
- your medication, dosage, and when and how to take it
- how to adjust your medication if your symptoms get worse
- when to seek medical treatment
- emergency contact information
Asthma attacks can become very serious very quickly, and they can come on suddenly.
None of the home remedies listed in this article or elsewhere have been shown to treat asthma attacks.
Use your rescue inhaler as the first line of treatment and seek emergency help if symptoms don’t improve.
Work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that will help you manage your asthma and avoid future attacks.