How to Help Someone Having an Asthma Attack
When someone has a medical emergency like an asthma attack, those around them have to take control of the situation and make sure the person is safe. Although asthma attacks aren’t always serious, you should know what to do in case someone has a severe attack.
An asthma attack occurs when the airways are inflamed. This causes the surrounding muscles to tighten, which makes it difficult to breathe. The most common signs are coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. If you see someone having a severe asthma attack, follow these steps:
It always helps to have a clear head when you’re trying to help someone having a medical emergency. If you seem panicked, the person having the asthma attack may also panic, which can make it even more difficult to breathe. Take a few deep breaths, and reassure the person that you’re there to help. If they can talk, ask what specifically you can do to help.
Remove the person from triggers.
If you know what caused the asthma attack, remove the trigger or get the person away from it. There are many causes of asthma attacks, so you may not be able to locate the trigger. Common asthma triggers include:
- Dust mites
- Animal dander
- Cold weather
Move the person into an upright position.
A person having an asthma attack may lie down, but lying down can obstruct breathing. Sitting upright will make the person more comfortable and can make it easier to breathe. Also, if the person is wearing restrictive clothing like a belt or a necktie, loosen it.
Locate an inhaler.
Ask the person if they have an inhaler. If they don’t, try to borrow one from someone else or locate one in a first aid kit. Depending on how severe the asthma attack is, you may have to help the person use the inhaler. To use an inhaler, remove the cap and shake it. Then, have the person breathe out and put their mouth around the mouthpiece. To deliver a puff, press down on the inhaler once. Tell the person to breathe in slowly and hold their breath for about 10 seconds.
Wait about a minute before giving another puff. In total, give four puffs. If the person still has trouble breathing after a few minutes, give them another four puffs.
Call 911 if necessary.
The asthma attack may be serious enough that the person needs medical attention. If you think the person may need a doctor, call 911 or offer to drive them to the emergency room. Some signs of a severe attack include:
- Bluish lips or fingernails
- Skin on the neck or ribs sucking in when breathing
- Difficulty talking or walking
- Difficulty breathing after using an inhaler
Stay until help arrives.
If you have to call 911, monitor the person until emergency help arrives. Try to help them stay calm, and reassure them that help is on the way. Doctors will assess the severity of the asthma attack and provide treatment or medication.