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Old 07-29-2011, 10:15 PM
spunkymuzicnote spunkymuzicnote is offline
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What do you do if you can't breathe?

I just had a bit of a scare where I couldn't breath (I have bronchitis) and couldn't stop coughing because of it. I got into some AC and seem to be doing better. That's great, but what should I do if it happens again and I'm not around AC? What are the steps to try before calling 911? Of course I'll contact my doctor later but it's ten at night and the office is closed. It wasn't a panic attack so the whole brown-paper-bag thing doesn't apply here, I don't think. So what do I do? I want to be prepared if this happens again. Thanks!
Old 07-29-2011, 10:32 PM
GameHat GameHat is offline
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Location: NW Chicago Suburbs
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Seriously, don't mess around with this. You say you are headed to the doctor - good.

If it's asthma then an inhaler might be able to fix it. Choking - Heimlich and/or 911. Any other "I can't breathe!" situation calls for a 911 call, immediately. You don't want to die because you were reluctant to call an emergency. You ask - what are other steps I should try before 911? If you really can't breathe, there are no other steps. Hie thee to a physician, immediately. With breathing you don't have the time to mess around with "possible" internet solutions and diagnoses.

Keep your plan to visit a doctor and figure out the root cause. Bronchitis as you describe - yeah, that might do it. But you need treatment for that now, NOT when you're choking to death.

"Not able to breathe" is a condition for which you don't want simple internet forum advice. You need a professional to figure out the real problem and treat it.

Last edited by GameHat; 07-29-2011 at 10:34 PM.
Old 07-29-2011, 11:19 PM
FluffyBob FluffyBob is offline
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I have asthma and it manifests itself in coughing fits that sometimes result a temporarily blocked breathing passage. It feels exactly like choking, no air movement possible, and it is scary. When this happens I try to remain calm. Usually in a few seconds irritation will decrease enough to allow a little air to pass and I breath very slowly through pursed lips to minimize the asthma reaction.

I will be dialing 911 or otherwise finding help if the inability to breath ever lasts any more than a second or two. Asthma medication taken regularly prevents or reduces these coughing fits. Asthma can worsen dramatically if not treated and it is important to deal with. Which reminds me I haven't yet taken mine this evening.

Don't be afraid to head to a 24 hr clinic or urgent care and get an inhaler.
Old 07-29-2011, 11:30 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Location: Sweet Home Chicago
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Absolutely, see your doctor. It sounds like you had a bronchospasm, and you may need a rescue inhaler to deal with it in the future.

This has happened to me a couple of times, but only when I have a respiratory infection and not with enough regularity for a doctor to give me an inhaler for it. In my case, a few drops of lobelia tincture and a cup of black tea has worked, but stealing a hit off my daughter's inhaler is much quicker and more effective.
Old 07-30-2011, 12:27 AM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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When I had an upper respiratory thing this past winter my doctor prescribed me an abuterol inhaler without batting an eye. I wasn't to use it for "rescue" but just use it twice a day. Probably to keep me from needing a rescue!

I've never been asthmatic but I was a smoker at the time so maybe that's why she hooked me up so readily.
Old 07-30-2011, 12:30 AM
Mosier Mosier is offline
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One of the most important drugs in a paramedic's arsenal is albuterol, which stops broncospasm and relaxes the lung passages. It's absolutely a big 911-worthy emergency when you can't breathe longer than a few seconds, and every second you wait before calling 911 is one less second the ambulance crew has to treat you before you die.
Old 07-30-2011, 12:45 AM
Lancia Lancia is offline
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IANAD, obviously, so I'm gonna say, get yourself to a doctor. NOW. Albuterol inhalers are a godsend, but they are worthless if you can't breath to begin with.

I had a similar issue last spring. It was allergies, but was so bad I ended up seeing three different docs before it was diagnosed and treated. I was given prednisone tablets, to help with the inflammation, and an inhaler that I used twice a day routinely to also help keep my airway open. I was given one of those instant albuterol inhalers, but again if you can't suck in a breath they will do you no good. You need a treatment that will prevent your airway from closing in the first place.

If you were in a situation where yon actually could not breathe, it already is an emergency. Go now.

Also keep in mind it will be very difficult to tell a 911 operator what is happening to you and where you are located if you can't breathe.

Let us know how you're doing.

Last edited by Lancia; 07-30-2011 at 12:46 AM.
Old 07-30-2011, 07:55 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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Personal medical and legal questions are to be started in IMHO, not General Questions. Moved.

samclem , Moderator
Old 07-30-2011, 11:02 AM
spunkymuzicnote spunkymuzicnote is offline
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Sorry Samclem, my mistake! I thought I was looking for facts, not opinions.

My mom called earlier this morning but all he told her were things I was already doing. So I just called again to ask about an inhaler. He wouldn't give me an inhaler and told me I should go into the ER for a chest x-ray. So I'm a bit frustrated. I'll let you know how things go.
Old 07-30-2011, 12:29 PM
Two Many Cats Two Many Cats is offline
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Location: Chicago
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Another asthmatic here. Keep calm. If you're mucus-y, try hanging your head down so that your windpipe is upside-down.

Can I just hijack a moment to express my rage that without insurance, my inhaler costs nearly three hundred dollars? Back to Primatene for me, I guess.
Old 07-30-2011, 12:40 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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What's AC, in this context?
Old 07-30-2011, 03:56 PM
Lancia Lancia is offline
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Originally Posted by spunkymuzicnote View Post
Sorry Samclem, my mistake! I thought I was looking for facts, not opinions.

My mom called earlier this morning but all he told her were things I was already doing. So I just called again to ask about an inhaler. He wouldn't give me an inhaler and told me I should go into the ER for a chest x-ray. So I'm a bit frustrated. I'll let you know how things go.
I assume you mean that your doctor said this. Frustrating, yes, but... it is your doctors advice. If you tell them at the ER what you've told us, chances are very good they will give you something for emergencies. That fact that your doctor isn't willing to give you something but wants you to go to the ER says a lot. He wants you to checked out ASAP.

Then make an appointment with your regular doc, bring along the ER notes (if you go), and see what he says. Telling the doctor you were at the point of calling 911 should drive home the seriousness of this.
Old 07-30-2011, 04:06 PM
TruCelt TruCelt is offline
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Location: Near Washington, DC
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AC = Air Conditioning, I'm pretty sure.

Call 911 is the answer. If you can't make a sound, you need to let them know this isn't a prank or a pocket-dial so I'd tap out "SOS" on the phone three short, three long, three short, any way you can do it. Taps with long/short pauses, or button pushes with beeps, whatever you can manage.

Then there's the worry of location. The cell phone technology does allow for some definition of where you are, but they're not going to know which house on the cul-de-sac, so go out to your front yard. Be as close to the street and as obvious as possible.

Best of luck, and I hope you won't have to face this question again!
Old 07-30-2011, 06:37 PM
Freudian Slit Freudian Slit is offline
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Air conditioning can help make you breathe again?
Old 07-30-2011, 06:49 PM
Eva Luna Eva Luna is offline
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Originally Posted by Freudian Slit View Post
Air conditioning can help make you breathe again?
Sure. I have mild asthma that is aggravated quite a lot by allergies, typically pollen allergies. Air conditioning, air filtration, etc. are a HUGE help.

And to the OP: yes, if you can't breathe, call 911. That's pretty much the definition of an emergency.

Any chance the bronchitis is being aggravated by allergies or other breathing problems? Treating the allergies might help. If it's asthma, caffeine might help. (And hey, it's worth a try, no?)
Old 07-30-2011, 08:04 PM
sjankis630 sjankis630 is offline
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Air conditioning can help make you breathe again?
it is no miracle but it certainly helps. I live in Northern VA and we have just gone through the hottest July on record. 2 Friday's ago the temp reached 105 and that is with about 75-80% humidity.
If you have not experienced it I would describe it as the air being very heavy which makes it difficult to catch your breath. Air Conditioning lessens this a ton and sometimes allows you to breath a little bit easier. And a word to anyone who has never experienced an episode like the OP describes. Trust me when it happens, you will do anything to start breathing again.
I remember when my asthma was getting worse about 5 years ago ( I was inside working late one evening so I had AC) but my inhaler was not working and I was short of breath so I was going outside to get to my car in case I had to drive myself to the hospital. Well the door to get out of our old office (no one else was there that late) has a electronic trip that registers that someone is in front of the door going out and automatically unlocks the door. I approached it too quickly the first couple of times or it malfunctioned but it would not unlock! I almost went into a panic right there. think about it , you cannot breath in an area where there is no one around incase you pass out. I would have jumped out of the window if I thought it would help me breath better. I tried to chill and got out the door.
To the OP, after you get back from seeing your doctor ( you have seen them right? ) and get your medication/treatment done, what has sometimes worked for me in the past is trying to breath in slowly through your nose (if you can breath) and then try to breath out more slowly through pursed lips (like you were whistling) This can sometimes help your lungs get out trapped air (if that is you problem) and sometimes keeps your airways open longer.
This has worked for me in the past. Just my humble opinion and i hope you are feeling better.
Old 07-30-2011, 09:52 PM
TimeWinder TimeWinder is offline
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One other thing. On your way home from the doctor, stop at an office store and buy one of those little digital recorders. Record the following message on it and keep it next to the phone:

"My name is <.....>. I live at <address>. This is an emergency. Please send paramedics. I cannot breathe and may not be able to speak into the phone. This is a recording. <more information about your condition if you have it>. <Repeat everything 3-4 times>."

People often forget that an inability to breathe can come with an inability to speak to the 911 operator. They'll eventually figure it out anyway if you call and don't respond, or respond only with taps and such, but aid will be on it's way much sooner if you can make yourself understood anyway.
Old 07-30-2011, 09:58 PM
Taomist Taomist is offline
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I've had a couple of weird reactions <I thought for sure I was going to die in a crack hotel...because I was choking on a Snapple for some reason O.o) so I can only tell you what I *did* do, which was to try to slow everything down. You know how you just have to think and you can slow your heartbeat down a bit, etc? That. I guess I figured that if I could slow down everything that the muscles would relax and let me breathe or something; I don't think it helped much, though; maybe I used less oxygen to ride out the reaction or something.
Old 08-02-2011, 09:19 AM
spunkymuzicnote spunkymuzicnote is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 105
Thank you everyone! The ER doctor took some chest and neck x-rays but they came up negative. I got some medication in case I have whooping cough and a cough medicine. The hospital will call today if I having whooping cough. Hopefully I'm going to be able to go in to see the PA for my regular doctor (she's out of town). But the PA is very good so that's okay. I've been feeling fine for the last day or so, I have just had some nasty coughing fits. With any luck I will be on the mend and back at work tomorrow.
Old 08-02-2011, 11:11 AM
LegsAkimbo LegsAkimbo is offline
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Location: North Carolina
Posts: 229
I don't have asthma (been tested for that) but when I get congested, I get REALLY congested. One night many years ago I took a decongestant before going to bed (stupid) and woke up at about 3 am totally unable to take a breath. Lungs were completely closed. I went into the bathroom and ran the shower and sink hot water and was finally able to get a little bit of air in through the steam. (I headed for hot water because when I was a kid I had whooping cough and my parents tented up my bed with a sheet, sprayed water all over the sheet, and ran a humidifier into the enclosure to keep it steamy in there.) DH called 911, ambulance came, but they couldn't take me out of what had become a steam room--as soon as I got out in the normal air, it closed back up. I ultimately ended up riding the ambulance with my head down over a pot of boiling water and towel over my head to keep the steam in. Interesting that this is the opposite of using AC. I had a small kitten once with a respiratory infection. The vet said she wouldn't survive it. I slept with her in the bathroom, running the hot water whenever she struggled to breathe. She lived to be about 16. So I am a steam fan when it comes to bronchitis-type congestion.


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