Asthma attack - no inhaler!!

I’m a fool. I haven’t used a doctor for about 3 years - and subsequently haven’t been able to get hold of an inhaler for a long time…I’ve moved around the country a lot, though that’s a terrible excuse…

My asthma is triggered (generally) by exercise and, once triggered, is moderate to bad.

I had a moderate attack today and I took about an hour to ‘come down’. But this is all by-the-by:

Is there anything to help me when I haven’t got my inhaler? Anything I can do? Anything I can drink/eat?

Please appreciate that I am currently organising a doctor, and that any advice offered here will be in back-up to the inhaler I will acquire over the weekend. And, since I (and I’m sure I’m not the only slack-minded asthma sufferer) will undoubtedly forgot my inhaler at some point, it would be great to have some tips to help myself.

Thanks in advance.

I had asthma as a kid and you have my complete sympathy. :frowning:

What helped me, back in the day, was, oddly enough, the simple reminder to “sit down”. Sitting down you use less oxygen. Even walking around uses up oxygen, so just tell the people around you, “I need to sit down”, and sit down. Or lie down, if you won’t feel too stupid. Lying down uses up even less oxygen.

Also, humidifiers did NOT help–it only added to the breathless feeling. Getting some fresh cool air always helped, so go sit in front of the air conditioner vent, or outside (if it’s not too polluted where you’re at).

And, needless to say, if running makes you wheeze–then don’t run. :smiley:

OH BOY!!! KENDO you are playing with fire. I have been an athsma sufferer my whole life and let me tell you one thing. People DIE from athsma attacks. There is no excuse for finding dead guy in his car who asphyxiated because he did not have an inhaler.

*** One does not have to have severe athsma for this to happen either ***

Get two inhalers one for the car one for wherever YOU are. Ask the doctor for a sample of Provental and he/she will give you one. That can be your back up.
Having almost died before from an athsma attack where I forgot my inhaler and said, “no big deal I’ll be fine”

I can not stress enough to have at least two, and one with you at all times.


coffee and warm water/food, help but do not take the symptoms away.


Calming down and warm compress’s help as well.

My husband works at the airport. Although he doesn’t generally work with people, his associates have been known to call him on the radio and ask him to come up when they have a kid having an asthma attack because they know he carries an inhaler, he always tells them the same thing. “Call the paramedics while you’re waiting for me to get there.” Then he poors a cup of coffee and tells the kid to sit down near an ac vent or ceiling fan, hold the coffee cup and smell it and sip it if they think they can. He does not offer his inhaler (which seems to be what his associates think should be done).

BTW the only time he drinks coffee is when he’s having an asthma attack and without an inhaler.

Primatene Mist, and tablets are available at pretty much any grocery store, Kmart and Walmart. Get a couple of them and keep one at work, one at home, and try to keep one with you or at least in your car. It’s all I use.

Also, something that might help is if you are like me and never without your wallet, crush a couple primatene tablets up very fine, and put the powder in one of those tiny ziploc bags. Keep it in your wallet for emergencies. Mix the powder in a cup of coffee or even water and chug it down. It will do the job fairly quickly, and has a psychological benefit. The taste is so godawful and long lasting that you will never want to have to resort to using it again, and help make you remember to grab your inhaler when heading out the door.

When you go to the doctor, make sure you get a preventative inhaler as well as a reliever.

My daughter is an asthmatic and at any given time we tend to have about 6 reliever inhalers on hand, so that if she forgets hers or hers runs out I’ve always got one on me.

In addition to the coffee and the primatene mist, one more thing you can do is fairly simple, but can help.

Sit down, then prop your arms up in front of you at shoulder level (you have to rest them on something, or else the muscular effort to hold the up defeats the rest of this). This will remove their weight from your rib cage and lessen the burden on your breathing muscles.

True, ordinarially you aren’t aware of the weight of your arms, but when you’re having an attack every little bit can help.

[asthma expert hat on]If one needs a rescue inhaler (like albuterol) more than once a week, one should generally be on a maintenance medication to reduce chronic inflammation in the lungs.

Primatene mist inhalers and other similar OTC preparations are helpful in a pinch, but should not be relied on regularly for asthma care without consulting a competent physician. Likewise, caffiene can be helpful in an emergency.

But 5000 people die of acute asthma attacks each year, so if in doubt, CALL 911. Let me repeat that: If in doubt CALL 911. Better to call rescue services and end up not needing them, than to need them and not call them.

So see your doctor, and work with your doc to see if you need an asthma control plan. Even people with mild intermittent asthma (fewer than one attack per week) can die from their attacks.
[Asthma expert hat off]

Member, State of Wisconsin Health Services Unit Asthma Task Force

QtM I’m not sure about in the US, but here doctors draw up an asthma plan for every asthmatic, no matter how mild their asthma.

I know that they aren’t cheap to buy Kendo, but I’d highly recommend purchasing a peak flow monitor if you can afford it - they really do take the guess work out of deciding what action you need to take, if you use one regularly, they can often give yiou advance warning that an attack is on the way. Most importantly, you know when you need IMMEDIATE medical care.

I’ve actually had doctors tell me my daughter is OK because they can’t hear a wheeze (of course they can’t, by the time we hit the hospital she’s already had as much relieving medication as it’s safe to give her) only to have her peak flow and saturated oxygen levels prove that she is most definitely not OK.

The coffee thing, is it the caffine or the warm liquid or what that eases? I never have a damned spray since my asthma creeps up on me unawares about 3 times a year only. I then ring to the hospital and ask for an emergency prescription and they tell me they can either make an appointment for me in 3 days or that I can come in an ambulance. I try to explain that 3 days isn’t an option, but that an ER visit is not a necessity if she will just fax my prescription to the local pharmacy but no… sigh

Uh, point was, is it the warmth or the caffine, cos tea with some honey in is always very helpful to me. [sub]and a smoke…[/sub]

Can you not by reliever inhalers OTC in the US?

You can buy them here OTC, it just costs more than if you have a prescription.

I prefix my remarks by stating I am a paramedic and firmly stand by the advice of getting some prescription medication on hand for emergencies.

I saw a British science program on Australian TV a couple of years ago, where they examined a controversial Russian therapy known as the Buteyko Method. This show took an objective look at the theory, and attempted a controlled “trial” with several severe asthmatics who were becoming unmanageable despite the best efforts of conventional medicine.

The Buteyko Method is based on breathing techniques and actively discourages the use of any medication at all - both the preventer and reliever types.

To cut a long story short, the results were mixed, and the jury is still very much out on whether the Buteyko Method has merit or is pure quackery. Some patients achieved a level of control that was remarkable, others found the necessary discipline far too scary and dropped out. But for those who did persist, in general there was some improvement in that the need for medication was reduced, and they had learnt a methodology that appeared to provide a non-chemical means of avoiding a crisis, or at least postponing it.

I have not heard anything since about the Buteyko Method, so I don’t know whether it has been followed or comprehensively debunked by medical science. However, you may find it of interest in relevance to your OP.

From Google:

Can you not by reliever inhalers OTC in the US?

You can buy them here OTC, it just costs more than if you have a prescription.

I’ve had mixed success with the coffee method. Something that has also worked for me with mild symptoms is a carbonated drink. If it really is the caffeine that does it, then I guess Coke would work too. Something that’s also worked if it’s not too severe is to go for a drive – presumably it just gets me away from my trigger.

I’m with both Qadgop and Dvousmeans. Get a prescribed inhaler. I’m an EMT, I dread finding someone on the road somewhere who is in end-stage athsma-induced asphyxiation. I only carry Oxygen. :frowning:

IANAD, but since other sufferers have chimed in here, I will offer personal experience and a suggestion, but again, I’d BEG you to make a comprehensive plan with your brand new doctor !

I was born with Athsma. I did not breathe properly when born, and suffered chronic attacks until the age of 6. When it disappeared. TOTALLY.

Until I was 22, and working on a Billy Joel music video. I was exposed to such severe lung-irritating particulate matter from a smoke machine, that I had an attack. I’ve had it ever since then. I take something called Singulair. It has changed my response to Athsma totally. In short, it blocks the body from REACTING to irritants or other situations that might induce athsma. Truly interesting and successful medication, for me. YMMV. Ask your physician please. It might be of help to you.

It is a feeling that someone outside our experience arena cannot imagine. You’re suffocating, slowly. And are totally aware of it. The fear alone is staggering.

Good luck to you.

Cartooniverse, NYS E.M.T.

If this turns out to be a double post, I apologise - the hamster is doing weird things to me.

ust adding to the comments above on Buteyko. I find one of the most difficult things when my daughter is having a serious asthma attack is getting her not to panic. Buteyko is excellent for getting the greatest benefit out of each individual breath during an attack (even though it’s totally counter-intuitive).

I know several people whose asthma is under much better control since learning Buteyko. Given the severity of my daughter’s asthma, I’ve found it an excellent adjunct to her preventative and relieving medications.

Just another point - and one which is made by our ambulance officers all the time. If you’re in trouble, call an ambulance as soon as you are having problems. Do not wait hoping that the attack will get better on its own.

Sadly, we have many asthma deaths here each year due to people not seeking medical help soon enough.

reprise - aside from Primatene Mist and equivalent generics, as far as I know there are NO over the counter asthma reliever medications in the US. And no preventatives OTC at all. In general, far fewer things are availabe OTC in the US than in Europe.

I have very mild, very intermittant asthma with very specific triggers. I will go 9-10 months without an attack at times. My problem with the “asthma plans” was doctors who insisted on putting me on steriods for life for a problem that only arose once or twice in a year. I have no objection to using powerful drugs when warranted, and have used Prednisone a couple times when I clearly needed a powerful medication, but I really really really do have a problem with the automatic “medicate to the gills” attitude, especially since, prior to having medical insurance, the attitude seemed to be “well, you don’t really need this, and it’s kind of expensive, are you really sure…?”

I need medication in basically three circumstances:

  1. cold or flu (no, I can not take a flu shot, I am allergic to the vaccine)

  2. ozone alert days

  3. in the event I have an “oops” with the food allergies (which happens maybe once every 4 or 5 years despite my best efforts)

So, explain to me the need to be on “preventative” medication 24/7 365 days a year when, during my “remission” times lasting for months my lung function is normal on tests and I show no signs of inflamation of the brochi?

BTW - yes, I carry an inhaler with me. Because you just never know. Nonetheless, I fail to see a need to be constantly on drugs unless absolutely necessary.