Asthma is a disease, usually characterized by chronic airway inflammation. It is defined by the history of respiratory symptoms such as wheeze, shortness of breath, chest tightness and cough that vary over time and in intensity, together with limitation of expiratory air flow.

During an asthma attack, also called an asthma exacerbation, your airways become swollen and inflamed. The muscles around the airways contract and the airways also produce extra mucus, causing your breathing (bronchial) tubes to narrow.

During an attack, you may cough, wheeze and have trouble breathing. An asthma attack may be minor, with symptoms that get better with prompt home treatment, or it may be more serious. A severe asthma attack that doesn’t improve with home treatment can become a life-threatening emergency.

The key to stopping an asthma attack is recognizing and treating an asthma flare-up early. Follow the treatment plan you worked out with your doctor ahead of time. Your treatment plan should include what to do when your asthma starts getting worse, and how to deal with an asthma attack in progress.

However, when caught with an asthmatic, without possession of an inhaler, the following remedies can relieve symptoms

  • Get away from the factor triggering the attack. This can be dust, smoke, and exercise. Move to an environment with fresh air
  • Sit upright: This mechanically maximizes chest movements during breathing
  • Take caffeine. Caffeine has an effect of relaxing muscles found in the airway, hence causing airway dilation or widening. This eases breathing as it partially reverses the disease mechanism of asthma
  • Stay calm. This is important because restlessness would increase need for oxygen by the body hence a need in increasing breathing which is already compromised by an asthmatic attack
  • Take a long breath. Breath in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Deep breathing maximizes oxygen entering your body, while effectively eliminating carbon dioxide outside the body
  • After some relief, seek immediate medical attention because the attack can recur in a few minutes or hours