6 Ways to Help Someone Having an Asthma Attack

by Kathi MacNaughton Health Professional

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.

Create a calm setting

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.

Be verbally supportive

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.

Mention their rescue inhaler

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.

Help with breathing techniques

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.

Offer to drive

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!

Help your loved one avoid triggers

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.

Kathi  MacNaughton
Meet Our Writer
Kathi MacNaughton

Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she's been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.