What is Asthma?

Asthma, also known as bronchial asthma, is a condition of the airways which makes it difficult to breathe. The airways of a person having an asthma attack become narrowed due to inflammation, muscle spasms and increased production of mucus or phlegm.

Due to this, they find it hard to breathe out the air trapped in their lungs and also find it difficult to breathe in fresh air.

Quick action is required to control an asthma attack and to prevent it from becoming a life-threatening emergency.

What triggers an attack?

People with asthma have sensitive airways and coming in contact with certain things in the environment around them can trigger an asthma attack. Some of the things that could set off an asthma attack are:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • A change in the weather
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen allergy
  • Any allergies (food/medicine/chemical fumes)
  • Chest infections
  • Pollution
  • Strong emotions e.g. Anxiety, laughter, stress
  • Certain medications
  • Exercise

Sometimes, the trigger cause is unknown.

Symptoms you need to watch out for:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Gasping for breath or difficulty in breathing
  • Unable to speak
  • Grey or blue skin tone on the lips, the ear lobes, and the fingertips
  • Distress and anxiety
  • Exhaustion

What should you do in case you see these symptoms?

Step 1: Calm them down. Sit them down in a comfortable position- upright and slightly leaning forward. Loosen any tight clothing.

Step 2: Ask for any emergency medicines/inhaler that they are carrying if they are unable to speak search their clothes for the same.

Step 3: Ask them to take slow and deep breaths.  If they are not responding immediately call for help and call for an ambulance

Step 4: To relieve the attack ask them to use their inhaler. If the person has a spacer, encourage them to use it. Assist them, if necessary.

If the person does not have an inhaler, use one from the first aid kit or borrow one from someone else.

Allow 4 puffs at a time. Between each puff, ask the person to take four breaths.

Step 5: Wait for 4 minutes. If it still does not get better, give 4 more puffs with 4 breaths between each puff.

Step 6: If you see no improvements or they are becoming exhausted.

Step 7: Until the ambulance or medical help arrives, administer the inhaler- 4 puffs with 4 breaths between each puff.

Step 8: Be attentive of their level of responsiveness, their breathing, and their pulse.


  • If an adult person is having a severe attack, give him 6-8 puffs every 5 minutes.
  • For children, limit it to 4 puffs each time.

If the person suffering from an attack does not have an inhaler and you’re unable to find one, call an ambulance right away.

If you are asthmatic, consult your doctor and work out a treatment plan in a case of emergency. Inform your friends, family, and colleagues of the plan of action to be followed, in the case of a severe attack when you might need help.

If your child is asthmatic, share the medical information and the plan of action to be followed, in the case of an emergency, with the school he/she attends.