Most asthmatics are cautious about keeping a rescue inhaler handy in the event of a sudden attack, but severe attacks may prevent the inhaler from helping adequately. There are many allergy and asthma triggers in nature and the physical exertion of hiking, swimming and preparing a campsite may lead to breathing problems even in people who keep their asthma under control. Anyone that has experienced a severe asthma attack or watched someone endure one can understand how frightening the situation can become. When people are hiking or camping they are often a great distance from adequate medical help, but there are many things family and friends can do to help their loved one while they wait for assistance.
Remain in Control
It is important for the bystander to not panic. The person with the attack will already be upset and allowing them to see someone else panic will make their stress worse. Panic releases chemicals in the body that narrow the airways. In addition, many people breathe faster and shallower when they are stressed and this breathing may worsen the attack. Keep calm and speak firmly, but gently, to the person having the attack.
Encourage Deep Breathing
When an attack occurs the oxygen level in the blood will drop because they are not breathing in as deeply as necessary. This can lead to confusion, fainting and dizziness. Have the person sit up and not hunch their shoulders. The exhaustion of an attack may make them want to slouch, but having the shoulders and back straight will make it easier for them to breathe in deeply. Raising the arms and resting their hands on their head may help as well. Encourage them to breath in through the nose and blow the air out through their mouths as if they are blowing out a candle. Make certain they are not breathing from the chest, but the diaphragm instead. To do this, make certain their stomach, not their chest, is moving during their breaths.
Give Them Water
Have the person sip cold water if it is available. If their attack was brought on by allergens, the cool water may help to reduce some of the inflammation in the throat. Water also hydrates the body and makes it easier to expel mucous. Asthmatics often have a dry cough during an attack. A more productive cough has the potential to relieve the attack somewhat.
Know Pressure Points
Acupressure helps some people with asthma to control their attacks when they are in progress and to avoid as many attacks in the future. There are pressure points in the chest, shoulders, throat and hand. Many people believe that pressing on these points will help to increase the flow of oxygen in the body and keep the person safer while waiting for medical assistance.
Of course, someone should call or run for medical help while these asthma treatments are taking place. In order to help reduce the odds of this type of event it is important for asthmatics to visit their physician prior to any remote vacation. They should make certain their long term control medications and their rescue inhaler are full, up-to-date and are being used properly. Avoid carrying heavy backpacks or performing strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day or when the weather is very humid. Bring allergy medications and consider wearing a surgical mask during any exercise to avoid breathing in as many allergens.