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What Should I Do if My Friend Is Having an Asthma Attack?

What should I do if my friend is having an asthma attack?
- Zahara*

An asthma flare-up can be scary, both for the person having it and anyone who sees it happening. A friend who knows how to handle the situation can be a big help.

Here's what to do:

  • Stay calm and be reassuring. Help your friend relax. If someone who is having a flare-up panics, it can make it even harder to breathe.
  • Take your friend away from any possible asthma triggers, like smoke.
  • Have your friend sit upright. Lying down might make breathing more difficult.
  • If your friend can talk, ask what his or her asthma action plan says to do during a flare-up. If your friend is able to tell you, follow the plan.
  • If your friend can't speak or doesn't remember what to do, ask if he or she has an inhaler to use during flare-ups. If so, get the inhaler and help your friend to use it.
  • Call 911 if:
    • the inhaler doesn't help
    • the inhaler helps at first but then your friend gets worse again
    • an inhaler is not available
    • your friend is having trouble talking or is struggling to breathe
    • your friend's lips are turning blue
    • your friend becomes unconscious

Friends can be the first line of defense for someone who is having an asthma flare-up. So it's great that you want to be prepared!

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: May 2014

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.