If your reliever medicine is not helping after five to ten minutes (or you have no access to it), you may have an asthma attack. Most asthma attacks can be managed in the home, without the need for hospital admission. This is the time when any efforts you have made to educate friends and relatives about how to act should bear fruit. You should:
- Keep trying the reliever.
- Try to stay calm and relax (easier said than done, but it does help).
- Sit in a position which you find comfortable, and resist attempts to lie you down as this restricts your breathing.
- Some people find it helps to sit leaning forward, with hands resting on knees.
- Try to slow your breathing down.
Treating a bad attack
Your asthma management plan should also include how to treat a bad attack, where admission to hospital may be necessary.
If you have the following warning signs, then you need to call your family doctor immediately. If the doctor is not available, you should call for an ambulance (or have someone call one for you), or arrange to be driven to hospital. The signs are that:
- You are unable to complete sentences without gasping for breath.
- Your asthma is not responding to the extra doses of reliever medicines.
- Breathing continues to be very difficult.
- Your lips or tongue go blue.
- Your pulse and breathing are very fast.
- You are exhausted.
Once you are sure help is on the way, you can take 15 to 30 puffs of your reliever medication. If you have been given steroid tablets to cover this contingency, then take them if you can.
Asthma attacks are always unnerving, but people with severe asthma say that they do become less frightened of bad attacks in time and are better able to cope with them when they happen.
If your asthma is out of control, do not hesitate to cause a fuss. Inability to breathe is a medical emergency and a threat to your life. This is no time to be polite.