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What To Do If Someone With Asthma Can’t Breathe

Move Away From Triggers

Steps to Help Breathe Easier with Asthma

The presence of asthma triggers wont only cause an attack, they can also make your symptoms worse. Be sure to try to get away from things that may be triggering your asthma attack.

For example, if youre in an area where people are smoking cigarettes, you should move away promptly.

Its also important to know your triggers. Common triggers include:

  • Allergens, such as pet dander, pollen, or certain foods
  • Irritants, such as tobacco smoke or pollution
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Some medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or beta-blockers
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu, or mycoplasma
  • Breathing in cold, dry air

What Other Conditions Can Cause Shortness Of Breath

In adults, asthma, congestive heart failure, heart attack, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , scarring of the lung tissue, and anxiety cause 85% of shortness of breath cases.1 More than one-third of people have two or more causes of breathlessness.1 The occurrence of breathlessness is highest in people who are 55 to 69 years old.5

In children, the most common causes of breathlessness are asthma, infections, and upper airway blockage.4

Use An Albuterol Inhaler

The first-line treatment for an asthma attack is an inhaler, says Madsen. If you have severe asthma, it may be helpful to carry your rescue inhaler with you at all times so youre prepared in the event of an asthma attack. People commonly carry their inhaler in their purse, backpack, or pocket.

Quick-acting or rescue inhalers generally contain albuterol, a medication that helps to open up your airway. Taking a puff of albuterol should quickly relieve symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath.

If you are still experiencing asthma symptoms after taking your inhaler, you can take albuterol one more time after 20 minutes. But if you are still feeling extreme shortness of breath after the second treatment, you should go to an urgent care clinic or see your doctor immediately.

Small children, who may have trouble using inhalers, can also take albuterol using a nebulizer, a machine that uses a plastic tube with a mouthpiece to deliver medication in the form of a mist.

If your symptoms are so severe that you are unable to talk due to breathlessness, or your lips or face turn slightly blue, you should get medical help immediately.

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What Causes An Asthma Attack

An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to asthma triggers. Your asthma triggers can be very different from someone elses asthma triggers. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you cant avoid your triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, smoke from burning wood or grass, and infections like flu.

Differences Between Copd And Asthma

Breathe easy? Good and bad news about asthma

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive lung disorder most commonly associated with smoking. In the early stages of the disease, the symptoms may mimic those of asthma. It may even flare if the lungs are exposed to allergens, fumes, or cold weather.

Among the differentiating early clues are fluid retention, trouble sleeping, an increasing nagging cough, and bringing up clear, whitish, or yellow phlegm.

Read Also: How Do Cockroaches Trigger Asthma

After An Asthma Attack

You should see a GP or asthma nurse within 48 hours of leaving hospital, or ideally on the same day if you did not need hospital treatment.

About 1 in 6 people treated in hospital for an asthma attack need hospital care again within 2 weeks, so it’s important to discuss how you can reduce your risk of future attacks.

Talk to a doctor or nurse about any changes that may need to be made to manage your condition safely.

For example, the dose of your treatment may need to be adjusted or you may need to be shown how to use your inhaler correctly.

Coronavirus : What People With Asthma Need To Know

Update July 25, 2021

We updated this blog post to include updated information and guidance from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

Note:Because this is a constantly changing situation, any data in this blog post may not represent the most up-to-date information. We will update this blog when possible.

In December 2019, a new coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 started spreading and triggered a pandemic . This coronavirus causes an illness known as COVID-19.

The coronavirus spreads through close contact from person to person. A person with the virus can spread it to others by talking, coughing, sneezing, singing, or breathing. The virus will be in large or small droplets that are exhaled from the mouth or nose out into the air.

If you are within 6 feet of someone who is ill with COVID-19, you may be at greatest risk for becoming infected. But it may be possible to catch the virus even if you are more than 6 feet away from an infected person because very small droplets can spread in the air. If someone who is sick coughs on or near your face, you may get infected. People may be infected with the coronavirus and not show any symptoms. They may spread the virus without knowing it. The virus may also spread through direct contact with a person who has COVID-19.

Also Check: Risk Factors Of Bronchial Asthma

What Types Of Asthma Are There

Healthcare providers identify asthma as intermittent or persistent . Persistent asthma can be mild, moderate or severe. Healthcare providers base asthma severity on how often you have attacks. They also consider how well you can do things during an attack.

Asthma can be:

  • Allergic: Some peoples allergies can cause an asthma attack. Molds, pollens and other allergens can cause an attack.
  • Non-allergic: Outside factors can cause asthma to flare up. Exercise, stress, illness and weather may cause a flare.

What Should I Know About Covid

How nasal breathing helps people with asthma?

If you have asthma that is moderate-to-severe, or if your asthma symptoms arent well controlled, youre at greater risk of having to be hospitalized if you get COVID-19. Therefore, you should wear a mask if you go to indoor spaces with other people, get vaccinated and avoid exposure to people who have the virus.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Many people live fulfilling lives with asthma. Some professional athletes with asthma have set records in their sports. Your healthcare provider can help you find the best way to manage your asthma. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to control your symptoms.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/19/2022.

References

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Is It Because I Quit Smoking

If youve been smoking for a while, it shouldnt be a surprise if you cant breathe as well. Of the many health problems that come with tobacco, lung disease is at the top.

But you may not realize that when you stop lighting up, you can have short stints where you cant catch your breath.

As you smoke, you damage your lungs. It can take a while for them to heal once youve stopped. Aside from trouble breathing, you can have:

  • Craving for cigarettes or nicotine

Asthma What It Is And How To Help If Someone Is Having An Asthma Attack

by Emma Hammett | Aug 27, 2021 | Essential First Aid, First Aid Advice |

We all know people who have asthma. However, very few of us would know what to do if someone close by started to have a serious asthma attack and was struggling to breathe. Read on to find out what asthma is, what may trigger it and how to help someone having an asthma attack.

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What Is Normal Breathing

When most of us breathe, the muscles that are wrapped around the air tubes are very loose and relaxed, and the lining inside the airways is very thin. This lets the airways open up very wide so that it is easy to get air in and out of the small air sacs that make up our lungs. These small sacs are called alveoli . When air moves in and out of our lungs, we call it breathing.

The picture below shows what your lungs look like when everything is working normally. The muscles wrapped around the airways are very thin and loose, and the airway is wide open. This makes it easy to move air in and out of the air sacs.

The animation below shows normal breathing. As we breathe in, air that contains lots of oxygen is pulled into the lungs. This oxygen slowly moves from the lungs into the blood. Then air that contains carbon dioxide is pushed back out through the lungs as we breathe out. When things are working normally, the amount of air we breathe in is about the same as the amount of air we breathe out.

What lungs look like during normal breathing

When you are breathing normally, it takes about the same amount of time to breathe in as it does to breathe out .

During an asthma attack, it is harder and takes much longer to breathe out than to breathe in . Since it is so hard to breathe out during an asthma attack, more and more air gets trapped inside the lungs making it feel like you cant breathe in or out!

What Causes Shortness Of Breath

Avoid The Mistakes Many Asthma Sufferers Make

In asthma, shortness of breath is usually caused by the narrowing of the airways. The airways become narrow for one or both reasons:

  • The muscles that surround the airways tighten up .
  • Inflammation makes the airways swell and fill with mucus.

The medical term for shortness of breath is dyspnea. People describe it as air hunger, fast breathing, running out of air, or not being able to breath fast or deep enough.1,4 Similar to thirst, hunger, or pain, it is nearly impossible to ignore.4 Because it is a subjective symptom, you can feel and describe it, but a health care provider cannot observe or measure it.

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How Do You Stop An Asthma Attack Without An Inhaler

If you are diagnosed with asthma, you should make sure you have an inhaler with you at all times. However, if a worst case scenario occurs and you experience when you dont have a reliever inhaler with you, there are practical steps you can take to ease your symptoms.

  • Stay as calm as you can find a way to reduce any anxiety, such as holding someones hand or playing music
  • Sit upright this will help keep your airways open
  • Breathe slowly and deeply slowing down your breathing can reduce the risk of hyperventilating
  • If something appears to have triggered your asthma, such as breathing in cold air or being exposed to smoke, move away from the trigger
  • Try breathing exercises the pursed lip breathing technique can help you deal with shortness of breath
  • Have a drink containing caffeine there is some evidence to suggest that caffeine can help improve airway function for up to four hours.

Asthma can be a life-threatening condition, so at the very least, aim to keep a spare reliever inhaler in your handbag, locker at work or coat pocket.

Preventing An Asthma Attack

The best way to prevent having an asthma attack is to make sure that your asthma is under control. People with asthma typically use two types of medication:

  • Long-term. This involves medication that you take every day to control airway inflammation and prevent asthma attacks. These medications can include things like inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers and long-acting bronchodilators.
  • Quick-relief. This is rescue medication that you take for short-term relief of asthma symptoms. These medications are referred to as short-acting bronchodilators and work to open your airways.

You should also work with your doctor to develop a personalized asthma action plan. This can help you to better understand and control your asthma. An asthma action plan includes:

  • your asthma triggers and how to avoid them
  • how and when to take your medications, both for symptom control and for quick relief
  • indicators of when youre controlling your asthma well and when you need to seek emergency medical attention

Your family and those close to you should have a copy of your asthma action plan so that theyll know what to do if you have an asthma attack. Additionally, it may be helpful to keep it on your phone as well, in case you need to reference it quickly.

Its possible that you may still have some questions regarding asthma attacks. Well try to answer some of these now.

Recommended Reading: Why Asthma Makes It Hard To Breathe

Make Sure Your Indoor Spaces Are Well

If you are staying indoors more because of COVID-19, be mindful of the quality of your indoor air. The air inside our homes can often be more polluted than the air outside. Unhealthy indoor air can be full of asthma triggers and allergens that can cause symptoms and make your asthma harder to control. Take steps to improve and maintain healthy indoor air quality.

Air circulation is important too. Keep your indoor spaces well-ventilated by opening windows or doors, using fans, running air cleaners, or using proper air filters in your HVAC system.

Current evidence shows the risk of the coronavirus spreading is much lower outdoors than indoors. Good ventilation in your indoor environment may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It may also affect the risk of transmission .

On days when pollen is low and air quality is good, open your windows to let in fresh air. Run your HVAC system as much as possible . Use high efficiency air filters in your HVAC system and replace them at least every three months.

If I Think I Have Covid

What To Do If Youâre Having More Asthma Problems

If you start having symptoms of COVID-19, get tested or take an at-home test. If you have mild symptoms and are not at high risk for having more severe COVID-19, you do not need to call your doctor. Call your local health department within 24 hours to let them know so they accurately report local cases.

If you are at high risk for severe COVID-19, call your doctor within 24 hours if you test positive. They may want to you to take the medicine Paxlovid.

Many pharmacies have various testing options . The United States Postal Services is providing free at-home COVID-19 tests. U.S. households can get eight rapid antigen COVID-19 tests for free. To receive them, youll need to complete an online form. Please note: You will not need to enter any credit or debit card details to place the order.

Some doctors may offer telehealth . If that is an option, ask your insurance company if telehealth is covered under your plan. And if you have Medicare, you might be able to have a virtual visit with your doctor. The government expanded the coverage of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay home and isolate from family members so you dont spread the coronavirus to other people.

Medical Review, July 2022 by Mitchell Grayson, MD

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Take Care Of Your Health

Take your asthma control medicines as directed to keep your airways open. Eat well and get enough sleep.

Pollen may impact people across the U.S. too. Seasonal allergies can affect people with allergic asthma. If pollen allergies trigger asthma symptoms for you, be sure to follow your allergy treatment plan to keep your allergies under control to prevent asthma episodes or attacks.

If you stopped seeing your allergist or getting allergy shots during the COVID-19 pandemic, consider making an appointment soon. Keeping up with your regular allergist visits is an important part of keeping your asthma controlled.

The most important thing you can do is to keep your asthma under control. If your asthma is not under control, call your doctor right away.

When Is It Abnormal

Some breathlessness is normal, such as after hard exercising or when you have a stuffy nose. However, it is a problem when it is greater than expected for a given level of physical effort.1

If shortness of breath continues for more than a month, it is considered chronic.1 Shortness of breath also can come on suddenly. Breathlessness is a symptom of many different conditions, so your medical history and a physical examination will provide important clues to the cause. For about two-thirds of patients, the signs and symptoms are enough to make an accurate diagnosis.1 Occasionally, additional tests may be needed.

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Watch How To Help Someone Who Is Having An Asthma Attack

What is asthma?

Asthma is a medical condition that affects the airways the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When someone has an asthma attack, these tubes become narrowed, making it difficult to breathe in and out.

How can I tell if someone is having an asthma attack?

People with asthma should be able to let you know if they are having an attack.

Someone having an asthma attack will have difficulty breathing and speaking, and may cough and wheeze. They may be very anxious and distressed as they struggle to breathe.In some cases, their lips, earlobes and nail beds may turn greyish-blue because there isnt enough oxygen in their body.

What sort of medication will someone with asthma use?

Someone who has asthma will normally have an inhaler that their doctor has prescribed. They may also have a spacer, which makes the inhaler more effective.

If someone is having an asthma attack they should know how to use their inhaler and spacer but they may need your help in finding them.

What does an inhaler look like?

Inhalers can come in many different sizes and shapes. Inhalers to relieve asthma attacks are usually blue. Inhalers that prevent asthma attacks may be brown or white.

How do you use an inhaler?

If a person has asthma they should know how to use their inhaler, they may need your help getting it for them. They should take it as normal. If that doesnt help they can take one or two puffs every 30 or 60 seconds until theyve had 10 puffs.

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