"Wet Noodle" Approach for Asthma Attacks: How It Works

by John Bottrell Health Professional

See the accompanying comic strip

Some people have asthma for so long that it's just a normal part of life, another thing to deal with. They can be having the worst asthma attack and no one but those with a trained "asthma eye" will ever know. They stay calm, cool and collected regardless.

What I am describing here is the phlegmatic asthmatic. Your author here was the quintessential example of this type of asthmatic when he was growing up.

First of all, you have to realize I've had this disease since I was a baby, so I never knew any other way of life.

One day when I was ten and on vacation with the family, I realized I forgot my inhaler. I didn't want to ruin every one else's vacation, and I didn't want my mom to get all stressed out, so I sucked on cough drops all night and all the next day and suffered until I was home. No one ever realized I was having asthma symptoms.

Another time, a few years later, my inhaler ran out. I didn't want to tell my mom because she just bought me one a few weeks ago. (Many times I'd go through my quick-relief inhalers swiftly because my asthma was so troublesome. As I said before, I was a bronchodilatoraholic - frequently, TOO frequently - using and relying on my quick-relief inhaler to manage my asthma. Even though my asthma was out of control, I still managed to appear as though everything was under control.)

Instead of telling my mom about my inhaler, I opened this book I got from my doctor called, "Kids with Asthma." The book had a cartoon in it called, "The Wet Noodle." When you are having trouble breathing, it said, you let yourself go limp like a wet noodle. The cartoon showed a bunch of kids sprawled about, doing exactly that.

I did this, and concentrated on my breathing. I learned to be cool, calm and collected. I made it through many nights using this technique. I was becoming a professional asthmatic.

Later, as a teenager, I remember playing football with my brothers in the snow, amid smoke-filled air from dad's wood furnace. After a half hour of running around, my chest was burning. By half time I could barely take half a breath.

"I will be right back," I said to my brothers. I didn't want my mom to know I was having trouble breathing because she would make me stay in if she knew. I used my relaxation techniques as I walked through the kitchen past her.

"How is the game going?" she asked.

"Great!" I choked, pretending not to sound like I was gasping for air.

In my room I took a quick breathing treatment and then I rushed back outside to finish the game. But I wasn't able to finish the game without taking several more breathing treatments, each time walking past mom with bad asthma.

My mom had no clue. I was good at staying calm despite how miserable I felt.

I didn't want others to suffer because I was suffering, so I continued to play football. Before that, I sucked on cough drops because I didn't want to ruin the family vacation.

Hey, I thought I had a talent.

When I did end up in the hospital, I would sit on the edge of the bed calm as the next kid. I would inhale slowly through my nose and exhale twice as slow through pursed lips.

I couldn't make my asthma go away, so I simply learned how to deal with it. Which, in a way, was a good thing, because the nervous asthmatic only makes his asthma worse.

Today I rarely have bad asthma symptoms, but when I do you would never know it unless you had a trained eye for such things. And, believe it or not, I have a couple friends that I cannot trick.

It is good to have good relaxation techniques in the face of an asthma attack, as it helps you to control your breathing and to stay calm.

Yet, it is not any better for the phlegmatic asthmatic to suffer with asthma any more than any other asthmatic type. Relaxation techniques are good, but one should always seek help when he needs it.

medicines are there to prevent breathing difficulty and to stop asthma symptoms from getting worse quickly. Our long-term bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory drugs are there to prevent the underlying cause of asthma - inflammation in the airways of the lungs.

If our medicine regimen isn't working for us, it's not our job to grin and bear it - we should work with our doctors to create the best possible asthma management plan for us. Of course, staying calm definitely helps.

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).