Asthma attacks can be frightening, both for those having them, as well as for their loved ones who watch them go through the experience. As a caregiver or friend, you may feel helpless when your friend starts to wheeze, hack and struggle to breathe.
But there are some positive action steps you can take that could make a difference in the outcome, or at least help your loved one cope with the experience better.
Here are some of the things you can do:
1. First, get your friend to sit down in a quiet place and provide as calming a surrounding atmosphere as possible. Loosen their clothing, if it is restricting.
2. Talk quietly to your loved one in a soothing voice. Offer words of encouragement and ask if there is anything specific you can do to help.
3. A rescue inhaler will often relieve symptoms within a few minutes. Asthmatics should always have their rescue inhalers with them, but if you don't see your friend using it, then remind them or offer to go get it, if it has been left behind.
4. Help your friend/loved one practice some slow, deep breathing or meditation, if they are willing. This will help them to relax. Stress and excitement don't really cause asthma attacks, but they can worsen them. So, helping your friend take steps to calm down is a great idea.
5. If your friend doesn't have an inhaler to use or symptoms continue to be severe or worsen, offer to drive him/her to the doctor or emergency room for help. A severe asthma attack needs to be treated!
6. Once things are under control, it can be helpful to figure out what triggered the asthma attack. It's usually some type of allergen, which can include certain foods, insects, pet dander or urine, pollen, or mold. Also wood smoke, tobacco smoke, strong odors, perfumes and sawdust or other irritating substances that can bring on an asthma attack. If you can remove your friend from contact with the trigger, that will help.
Taking positive steps like those outlined above will definitely be helpful to your friend or loved one. But it will also make you feel better and less helpless in the face of your friend's discomfort.