An asthma attack involves faster breathing and bigger breaths than normal. When you have an attack, your respiratory centre is excited and you experience a very strong feeling that you simply cannot get enough air, so you are stimulated into trying to take bigger breaths, each with more volume than you would normally inhale. When an attack strikes, starting this exercise will be totally contrary to what you will feel like doing because it involves reducing your air intake even though you will feel an overwhelming urge to inhale as deeply as you can.
Throughout my teenage years my ﬁrst instinct when the ﬁrst signs of symptoms appeared was to reach into my pocket for my Ventolin reliever. What I know now is that this instinctive reaction creates a dependency on the drug, and a psychological addiction to it. Practice this exercise for the ﬁrst few minutes to try to get over the attack before taking your reliever if your symptoms are mild enough. Of course, if the attack is severe, you must take your inhaler straight away.
✦ First, sit down in an upright position. If you happen to be lying down in bed when the symptoms ﬁrst appear, then get out of bed and sit down comfortably. If the room is stuffy, open the window to let in some fresh air.
✦ At the ﬁrst signs of an attack resist the urge to take big breaths, and focus on trying to reduce your breathing. It may help if you repeat these words in your head, over and over: ‘relax and remain calm’.
✦ When you decrease your breathing, be careful not to decrease it too much that you start to gasp.
✦ If you do create a strong need for air, be careful not to exacerbate your attack by taking in very big breaths after- wards.
With all asthma attacks, senses of panic, urgency and irritabil- ity can set in quickly, but these are the normal human responses generated when you feel a threat of suffocation. Always remember that your attack is caused by your over- breathing and try to remain as relaxed as you can during the attack. Clear your mind by focusing on your breathing as much as you can and practice the exercise above. You may not always stop an asthma attack using this exercise, but you can certainly reduce it substantially. Over time, as your condition improves, your ability to stop an attack will also improve.
If your attack lasts more than ﬁve minutes, take your reliever medication. If you are having a severe attack, then take medication immediately. If you are not responding to medication within ten minutes, seek medical attention immediately.
If your symptoms are manageable, then try to overcome the attack by practicing the exercise for the ﬁrst couple of minutes. If you are unable to obtain relief after ﬁve minutes, take your reliever medication. Do not prolong the attack or experience unnecessary discomfort by delaying the taking of the reliever unnecessarily. After you have taken your reliever medication, continue to remain relaxed and reduce your breathing.
The aim of this therapy is to reduce the number of attacks arising in the ﬁrst place. While you will continue to experience attacks, the frequency will diminish as your control pause gets closer to the forty-second target. Breathing exercises will only alleviate asthma when applied during the early stages of an attack or wheezing. If an asthma attack has been occurring for more than ﬁve minutes, it will be a lot more difﬁcult to control using breathing exercises, especially if your normal control pause is less than twenty seconds.
It is very important that everyone with an asthma condition continues to take their preventer treatment as prescribed and has reliever medication at hand in case it’s needed.