Asthma Attacks: Are There Home Remedies?

While some home remedies may generally help people living with asthma, no home remedies are safe to use during an asthma attack. Asthma is best managed with medications and by avoiding known triggers.

Though people and articles on the internet might tout home remedies for asthma, these claims are not backed by scientific evidence.

This article explains some of those remedies, why people think they work, where the evidence is lacking, and what you should actually do during an asthma attack.

Mild coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing are all symptoms of asthma. Asthma is a chronic condition, and its symptoms can be worsened by common asthma triggers, such as dust, pollen, or cold air.

If these symptoms continue to worsen or become unexpectedly severe, they can become an asthma attack.

Asthma attacks are potentially life threatening. When they happen, the airways in your lungs become inflamed and constricted (narrow), making it difficult for air to flow in and out. This can be made worse by extra mucus buildup. In severe cases, these attacks can be life threatening.

Signs of an asthma attack include:

  • coughing that won’t stop
  • wheezing when breathing out
  • shortness of breath
  • very rapid breathing
  • a pale, sweaty face

Learn more about asthma and asthma attack symptoms.

Some complementary treatments may help with asthma symptoms.

But there’s no scientific research to show that these remedies will treat an asthma attack, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Here are some examples of remedies that might work for asthma symptoms in general but should not be used during an attack:

Caffeinated tea or coffee

The caffeine in black tea, green tea, and coffee is believed to help treat asthma. It works similarly to the popular asthma medication theophylline, which opens up the airways.

A 2010 research review, the most recent available at the time of this article’s publication, found that caffeine may slightly improve breathing function for up to 4 hours in people with asthma.

Still, there isn’t enough evidence to show whether caffeine can improve asthma symptoms. And no evidence proves it can help during an attack.

Essential oils

According to a 2020 review, eucalyptus essential oil may have anti-inflammatory properties that might help treat asthma.

The main element of eucalyptus oil, 1.8-cineole, may help reduce inflammation related to the airway. It may also help reduce inflammation via certain brain receptors, according to animal research from 2017 cited in the review.

Lavender oil is another essential oil that shows promise. Another 2017 animal study suggests it may help reduce lung inflammation. Yet more research is needed in humans to verify this.

Despite these findings, research from 2018 suggests that essential oils, including eucalyptus and lavender, release potentially dangerous chemicals. More evidence is needed, but these substances may make asthma symptoms worse.

Remember to use caution when trying essential oils, and never use an essential oil if you’re having an asthma attack.

Learn more: “Can I Use Essential Oils to Treat My Asthma Symptoms?“

Breathing exercises

A 2020 analysis of 22 studies suggests that doing regular breathing training may improve asthma symptoms like hyperventilation and overall lung function.

Examples of such exercises are:

  • breathing through the nose
  • slow breathing
  • controlled holding of breath

That said, the researchers point out that due to differences in methodologies between the studies, the evidence found was of inconsistent quality.

Because of this, more research is needed on the effectiveness of breathing exercises for asthma. This is also not a technique to use during an asthma attack.

When you have an asthma attack, natural remedies are not going to work. You need to keep a rescue inhaler on hand for immediate relief. Check the date on the pump regularly to make sure it hasn’t expired.

Keep taking puffs on the inhaler until help arrives.

What to do during an asthma attack if you don’t have an inhaler?

During an asthma attack:

  • Do your best to keep calm.
  • Take a puff of your rescue medication inhaler.
  • Stand or sit up straight.

Whether or not you are using an inhaler, if your breathing doesn’t improve within several minutes, or if you begin to feel drowsy, it’s time to seek emergency help. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Call 911 if you’re alone.

Learn more: “What to Do if You Have an Asthma Attack but Don’t Have an Inhaler“

The best way to prevent asthma attacks is to avoid known irritants.

The most effective thing you can do in your home is to remove or reduce your asthma triggers.

Depending on your specific triggers, ways to minimize them may include:

  • keeping your house clean to reduce dust and mold
  • keeping windows closed and staying inside if air quality is poor
  • quitting smoking, if you smoke, and avoiding secondhand smoke
  • avoiding burning wood in a stove or fireplace
  • bathing your pets weekly and keeping them out of your bedroom

You can also get an annual flu vaccine and a pneumonia vaccine, which can help prevent asthma flare-ups caused by viruses.

You should take any medications that have been prescribed to you, even if you’re feeling well and haven’t had an attack lately.

Regular appointments with your doctor will help them:

  • evaluate your asthma
  • change your treatment, if needed, to help manage your asthma
  • check that you’re using your inhaler properly

Learn more about how to prevent asthma attacks.

Create an asthma plan

It’s also helpful to work with your doctor to create an asthma plan. Follow your plan’s instructions when you experience symptoms of an attack.

Your plan should include:

  • a description of triggers that can cause an attack
  • how to recognize an attack
  • your medication, dosage, and when and how to take it
  • how to adjust your medication if your symptoms get worse
  • when to seek medical treatment
  • emergency contact information

Asthma attacks can become very serious very quickly, and they can come on suddenly.

None of the home remedies listed in this article or elsewhere have been shown to treat asthma attacks.

Use your rescue inhaler as the first line of treatment and seek emergency help if symptoms don’t improve.

You can also work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that will help you manage your asthma and avoid future attacks.

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