How to help someone with an asthma attack

If you are taking care of a person with asthma, you should know how to act if he or she is having a severe asthma attack. Asthma attacks can be very serious and even life-threatening, hence it is crucial to know what to do during an emergency. The personalised asthma written action plan explains in detail how to act during an attack. Instructions about what the person should do during a severe attack is usually in the third section of the action plan, which is often coloured red.

What to do to help someone having an asthma attack?

  1. Help the person to sit in a comfortable position.
    • Do not leave him or her alone.
    • Encourage him or her to stay calm and to take slow, steady breaths.
  2. Get the reliever inhaler and help him or her how to use it.
    1. If the person does not have an inhaler, call immediately for an ambulance.
    2. If the person’s reliever is a salbutamol puffer, help them take from two to four separate puffs, one at a time. Use a spacer if one is available.
    3. If the person’s reliever is a combination anti-inflammatory reliever inhaler containing formoterol (e.g., budesonide-formoterol or beclometasone-formoterol), give them two separate inhalations.
    4. These doses can be repeated after 4-5 minutes if the person’s symptoms have not improved.
  3. If breathing does not return to normal or gets worse despite the reliever medication, you must call for an ambulance.
  4. If the symptoms do not improve, continue giving the reliever inhaler until the ambulance arrives.

Be prepared for an asthma attack

  • It is very useful to have your own copy of the asthma action plan.
  • Learn the correct use of the inhaler of the person you are caring for so that you are ready to help using it in case of an emergency.
  • Try to keep calm so as to encourage the person having the attack to relax, since panic may exacerbate symptoms.
More #aboutasthma
What is an asthma attack?
Asthma management
Avoiding asthma triggers
How to communicate about asthma with healthcare providers
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