I’m sure everyone who’s ever experienced one has wondered, “how can I stop an asthma attack without an inhaler?” I know I have, and it’s what started me on my asthma journey to get off albuterol completely (here’s how I did it).
If you are experiencing an asthma attack right now, you know you need to stay calm. Sit up straight and try to take long deep breaths. Get away from any triggers, and maybe have a cup of tea if you can. But if you don’t have your inhaler, you should seek emergency help.
As I’ve researched how to manage my asthma, what I’ve found is that the only sure-fire way to stop an asthma attack without an inhaler is to prevent it from happening to begin with. So if you’re in the middle of an asthma attack right now, you need to either take your inhaler or call for help.
Don’t be a hero. If you can’t manage your asthma attack, you need medical help.
One of the scariest experiences of my life was having an uncontrolled asthma attack with no albuterol rescue inhaler on hand. I’ve spent years experimenting and doing research on the best ways to control asthma without having to resort to my ventolin inhaler.
So let’s look at the most significant ways you can stop your next asthma attack from happening.
What is an asthma attack?
Asthma attacks take different forms in different people, but in each case you simply can’t breathe. Your chest feels heavy and each breath is laboured and unsatisfying.
Without a rescue inhaler or other medical intervention an asthma attack can get progressively worse and even life-threatening.
In fact, with the right strategy, you’ll start to need your inhaler less and less – here’s the five steps I took to get off albuterol completely.
Why do asthma attacks occur?
This is the million dollar question – and science still doesn’t have a definite answer.
One thing we do know is that there is a strong relationship between asthma and allergies. Like with allergies, asthma is basically an autoimmune response of the body to a perceived or real threat. This causes the tissue of the airways to become inflamed and filled with mucous which in turn produces all those ugly symptoms of asthma.
How to prevent asthma attacks without an inhaler
Prevention is key when it comes to staving off asthma attacks so you can start to rely on your inhaler less. But there’s no single best way to do it – you need to find what works for you.
One thing is for sure though—it takes a lot of work to become 100% asthma-attack free. But it can be done – I’m living proof (see my asthma story here).
I have stopped taking my preventative inhaler completely, and I only carry around my ventolin for emergencies now. But I’ve only needed it a few times in the last few years, only when I’m sick.
Taking the first steps, you will likely see a dramatic improvement in your asthma symptoms in a short period of time.
In my own personal experience, it was a complete change in my lifestyle that finally got me to the point where I wasn’t ever having an asthma attack or reaching for my inhaler.
Every once in a while I experience a mild shortness of breath, but it’s never so much that I can’t find relief using some simple techniques that I outline below.
Basically, I beat my asthma attacks by addressing my lack of physical activity, switching to a healthier diet and employing controlled breathing in times of need. Read on and let me take you through the basics.
It’s going to make your body work it’s best and be most efficient at carrying oxygen from your lungs to your heart and to everywhere else it’s needed. In fact, the National Institute of Health recommends healthy adults exercise regularly to promote healthy lung function.
And while it takes a time commitment, exercise is actually one of the easiest things you can do to improve your asthma symptoms, right at home and for free (win-win!).
Pick a vigorous physical activity you enjoy and do it for a minimum of 15-20 minutes everyday, no exceptions.
This can be anything from running, cycling, rowing, or even jumping jacks.
It can be outside of inside just as long as it’s intense because the sustained intensity is what’s going to get your body’s ability to oxygenate itself to its maximum potential.
In fact, many modern studies have shown that a small amount of intense physical activity is more productive than much longer, lower intensity workouts. So it’s in your best interest to choose some kind of activity that will give you the best results in the shortest amount of time out of your day.
But don’t worry if you have to start out slowly, especially if you have exercise-induced asthma like I do. Just start moving! And don’t worry if you have to take your puffer a little more at the start – think of it as a long term investment for your asthma, so that eventually you can stop an asthma attack without an inhaler, before it even starts.
And if you’re really serious and willing to spend a bit of money, you can do what I did and get into indoor rowing. It was rowing that helped me kick my ventolin habit. That’s because rowing is a great total body workout that you can do from home – I just didn’t want to go and wheezy at a public gym.
If you’d like to learn more, I’ve put together a guide to buying the perfect rowing machine for your life and budget.
Or you can do jumping jacks and push-ups at home for free with good results too. It’s all a matter of how far you want to take things.
(Yes – apples are an asthma ‘superfood.’ Find three asthma superfoods here!)
We’ve all heard “you are what you eat”, but few of us appreciate how true that is.
When you have asthma, however, it becomes more obvious.
That’s because unhealthy foods, like highly refined and processed snacks, make asthmatics phlegmy and congested, leading to nasty asthma symptoms, and even asthma attacks.
Bad foods also just generally weaken our bodies and immune system, which makes working out more difficult and less productive – what a nasty cycle.
So in a lot of ways, diet is even more important than exercise, because without a proper diet your body doesn’t have the nutrients it needs to make the most of the exercise you do. A poor diet can also make you feel weak and demotivated to working out to begin with.
I recommend keeping things simple rather than switching to a radical new diet, especially if you’re just beginning your asthma journey.
Try eliminating as many junky foods from your diet as possible while replacing them with foods low in refined sugars and carbohydrates and higher in protein.
And drink lots of water! This is a super-easy way to make a big difference to your asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks before they start. In fact, it’s on of the 5 strategies I used to get off albuterol completely.
And it’s probably no surprise that the much touted Mediterranean Diet has been proven helpful for asthmatics, too.
There are plenty of diet plans available online so I recommend finding one that works for you and sticking to it. Or, check out the diet that I follow for asthma management.
I also recommend starting an asthma food journal to being figuring out which foods trigger your asthma. I mentioned before the link between asthma and allergies, so this step is absolutely crucial.
You can do this by simply writing down everything you eat over the course of the day along with your asthma symptoms.
I bet you’ll be surprised to learn how many foods you eat regularly that actually affect your breathing. You can then try eliminating that food from your diet and see if your symptoms improve or change.
my strategy for managing my asthma. I use it both as a preventative measure and as something I can practice if my breathing feels like it’s becoming more difficult.Controlled breathing is another key part of
Controlled breathing can be anything from counting to 10 while taking some slow deep breaths, to mediation, all the way to a more systematized breathing regimen like Buteyko.
Buteyko is basically a set of beliefs based on minimizing over-breathing, or hyper-ventilation (which is caused in part by mouth-breathing). It turns out that breathing through my nose and keeping my mouth shut while I sleep was one of the first and best things I did to successfully control my asthma (here’s how I keep my mouth shut at night – super easy and super cheap and super effect for controlling my asthma at night!)
Buteyko is what got my mind thinking in the right way about my asthma—that it’s a breathing problem in general rather than a lung problem specifically.
If you’re interested in learning more about Buteyko, check out these articles:
Buteyko certainly isn’t necessary to get your asthma under control, but some kind of controlled breathing method is crucial. Even if it’s just a simple meditation to calm you down and get your breathing to be more rhythmic and smooth.
At the very least you should try your best to avoid mouth breathing, which is bad for your oral health anyways.
And become mindful of when and why your breathing starts to getting faster and more laboured. Just like with diet, a breathing journal is a great idea. You can even match your breathing journal with your food journal and try find the connections and get an even better handle on what are your triggers.
If you would like to learn more about how to apply Buteyko and mindful breathing strategies to your life, I can’t recommend this book highly enough:
Final Thought On Stopping Asthma Attacks
The bad news is that there is no reliable way to stop an asthma attack without medication, specifically a fast acting inhaler.
But the very good news is there are a million ways to prevent asthma attacks from occurring – and they all involve getting healthier, which is important in its own right.
Uncontrolled asthma and frequent asthma attacks are generally a symptom of a bad lifestyle.
So if you’re overweight, you need to deal with that.
If your diet is full of junky, sugary foods, or other foods your body can’t tolerate, you need to deal with that.
And if you’re living a sedentary life where you sit all day, you need to deal with that too.
I know none of this is easy, but if you can figure all this out, you won’t find yourself reaching for your inhaler so much. You might even be able to ditch your maintenance inhaler like I did.
And please let us know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these strategies, and what you do to keep your symptoms at bay. It’s great to hear from fellow asthmatics so we can all teach each other better ways to manage our symptoms and live well!
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