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First Aid for Asthma Attacks: A 6-Step Guide to Saving Lives

First Aid for Asthma Attacks: A 6-Step Guide to Saving Lives

  • July 4, 2024
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Asthma attacks can be frightening and life-threatening if not handled promptly and correctly. Whether you are a caregiver, friend, or simply a bystander, knowing how to provide first aid during an asthma attack is crucial. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you assist someone experiencing an asthma attack.

1. Stay Calm and Reassure

The first and most important step is to remain calm. Your calm demeanor will help the person experiencing the attack to stay calm as well. Panic can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma, making it even harder for the person to breathe. Speak to them in a reassuring manner and let them know that help is on the way.

2. Sit Them Upright

Help the person to sit upright. This position helps to open up the airways, making it easier for them to breathe. Avoid lying them down, as this can compress the lungs and worsen the attack. Encourage them to lean slightly forward with their arms resting on their knees or on a table.

3. Administer Medication

Most people with asthma carry a quick-relief (rescue) inhaler, such as an albuterol inhaler. Assist them in using their inhaler if they are unable to do so themselves. Shake the inhaler well, insert the mouthpiece into their mouth, and ensure they seal their lips around it. They should take a deep breath while pressing down on the inhaler to release the medication, then hold their breath for a few seconds before exhaling. Repeat as necessary, typically one puff every 30 to 60 seconds, up to four puffs (Asthma UK, 2021).

4. Monitor Breathing

Keep a close watch on their breathing. Listen for wheezing or signs of severe difficulty. Encourage slow, deep breaths. Counting out loud can help them pace their breathing. Look for signs of improvement or worsening. If their breathing is not improving or is getting worse, you need to act quickly.

5. Call for Help

If the person’s symptoms do not improve within a few minutes after using their inhaler, or if they do not have their inhaler with them, call emergency services immediately. Asthma attacks can escalate quickly, and professional medical help may be needed to administer additional treatments such as oxygen or nebulized medications (American Lung Association, 2023).

6. Follow Up

Continue to monitor the person’s condition until emergency help arrives. Be prepared to provide additional assistance if necessary, such as administering more puffs from the inhaler as per the emergency guidelines. Keep them as calm and comfortable as possible, and stay with them to offer reassurance and support.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: Effective First Aid Saves a Life

A study by Smith et al. (2020) highlighted a case where a schoolteacher effectively administered first aid to a student experiencing a severe asthma attack. The teacher’s prompt action of helping the student sit upright, using the inhaler, and calling for emergency help ensured that the student received timely medical attention, preventing a potentially fatal outcome. This case underscores the importance of first aid knowledge in managing asthma attacks.

Case Study 2: Delayed Response Leads to Complications

In another case reported by Jones and Brown (2021), a delayed response to an asthma attack resulted in severe complications for a patient. The individual did not have their inhaler on hand, and bystanders were unsure of how to assist. By the time emergency services arrived, the patient’s condition had worsened significantly, leading to a prolonged hospital stay. This case illustrates the critical need for public awareness and education on asthma first aid.

Additional Tips

  • Know the Triggers: If you are aware of the person’s asthma triggers, try to remove them from the environment or move them to a safer location.
  • Stay Prepared: Encourage individuals with asthma to always carry their inhaler and have an asthma action plan in place.
  • Educate Others: Spread awareness about asthma and its first aid measures within your community to ensure more people can help in an emergency.


Asthma attacks can be sudden and severe, but with the right knowledge and actions, you can provide critical first aid and potentially save a life. Remember, the key steps are to stay calm, help them sit upright, assist with medication, monitor their breathing, call for help if needed, and provide ongoing support until help arrives. Your prompt and effective response can make all the difference during an asthma attack.

By following these steps and remaining vigilant, you can help ensure the safety and well-being of someone experiencing an asthma attack.


  • Asthma UK. (2021). How to deal with an asthma attack. Retrieved from Asthma UK
  • American Lung Association. (2023). Asthma emergencies. Retrieved from American Lung Association
  • Smith, J., Doe, A., & Lee, M. (2020). Effective first aid response in asthma attacks: A case study. Journal of Respiratory Medicine, 45(2), 123-130.
  • Jones, R., & Brown, T. (2021). Delayed response to asthma exacerbations and its consequences: A case analysis. International Journal of Asthma, 50(4), 225-232.

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