Authored by JoannaRasmuson

Asthma attacks: What to Do When You Don’t Have Your Inhaler

May 1, 2019 | Family Medicine

Asthma is a condition in which the bronchial tubes in your lungs are inflamed (swollen) and produce extra mucus, which makes it difficult to breathe. Certain triggers, such as air pollution, cold weather, smoke or pet dander, can make the airways swell even more and cause an asthma attack. Other triggers of asthma attacks include physical exertion or an emotional outburst.

A severe asthma attack needs immediate attention and should be taken seriously. If your nails or lips turn blue, you experience a rapid pulse or have severe coughing, call 911 and get medical help immediately.

If you have asthma, you know how important it is to keep your inhaler on hand for times when you have difficulty breathing. Even so, many people often find themselves in a situation without their inhaler, or worse, not having an inhaler that works. If for some reason you do not have your rescue inhaler, use these tips until help arrives.


Tips for When You Don’t Have an Inhaler

Mild to moderate asthma attacks can occur at inopportune times. You may be able to manage your asthma more effectively with these tips. If these don’t work CALL AN AMBULANCE.


  1. Sit upright. This opens your airway. Don’t bend over or lie down, as doing this constricts your airway even more.
  2. Slow down your breathing by taking long, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose. Exhale through your mouth. You want to prevent hyperventilation.
  3. Stay calm. Anxiety tightens your chest and back muscles, which makes it more difficult to breathe.
  4. Get away from the trigger. If you can get away from your trigger, do so. Move into clean air, preferably an air-conditioned environment, and try to take slow, deep breaths once you’re in a safe place.
  5. Drink a warm, caffeinated beverage, such as coffee or tea. Caffeine has similar properties to some asthma medications and can help temporarily improve airway functions.  
  6. Get medical help. If you can’t get the wheezing, coughing or breathing difficulties under control, it’s important to get help.


Prevent Asthma Attacks  

The best thing you can do for your asthma is stick to your treatment plan so that you can control your symptoms and prevent attacks. Part of that process includes taking your medications regularly. It’s also important to talk to your doctor about your asthma attacks, especially untriggered attacks. Even if you get your asthma attack under control, you should let your doctor know because when you have attacks, it could be a sign that you need to tweak your treatment plan. Start getting a handle on your asthma today by making an appointment with your doctor.


Revere Health’s family medical practice in Lehi has been serving families for more than 50 years with care for patients of all ages. We specialize in weight control, depression management, skin care, hormone replacement, cardiac conditions and cholesterol management, and we strive to provide our patients and their families with quality healthcare services.




“Asthma Attack Without an Inhaler: 7 Things to Do Now.” ​Healthline.

“What if you have an asthma attack and no inhaler?” Eugene Lotter, Health24.

“Caffeine for asthma.” Cochrane Library.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.