Since I was five or six I’ve suffered with asthma. My mother’s a smoker, and being exposed to her puffing away (which she does in the house – is doing right now, actually, to my eternal chagrin) doesn’t help things much either.
That said I rarely have to use my inhaler these days. Part of that is just plain growing up: what was once fairly severe asthma has since regressed to a mild nuisance. I still have the occasional wheezing fit, sure, but even those usually go away without having to give the old puffer a go.
Resilience comes from keeping in shape. I refuse to let my body get run down, and I try to keep my lungs strong with lots of jogging and walking. That’s one good way of weaning yourself of a puffer reliance: get exercise. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you work up a good sweat doing it. This doesn’t require a gym or fancy equipment: in a pinch a set of stairs, or even just jogging around the block, will work. Stop if you feel an asthma attack approaching, of course – nobody wants that – but over time gradually increase your regimen. It will do wonders for your asthma.
Yet that still begs the question, how do you stop an attack once it hits you? Your puffer isn’t always going to be around. In those cases when medicine isn’t available – or when you don’t want to use it, for whatever reason – I find that deep, regular breathing is the key.
Find somewhere to sit down. Give your body a rest. When sitting, try and straighten your spine as much as possible. Slouching, at least for me, works against the lungs rather than for. Once you’re in the right position, hopefully well away from whatever STARTED the attack (the outdoors does wonders, regardless of the season), focus on one thing in your surroundings and gradually slow your breathing.
Concentration is important. You need to focus on something other than your wheezing. It doesn’t matter what the object is – a friend is probably best, though just about anything will do in a pinch – so long as you keep it centered in your line of vision. Then take deep, slow, long breaths. Resist the urge to devolve into shallow, gasping breaths as they will only make your situation worse. After a while of concentrating on one thing I find that closing my eyes and imagining something relaxing, like a babbling brook or a quiet road on a sunny day, helps a lot. Once your breathing comes regularly without you having to force it, it’s time to get back to whatever you were doing beforehand.
It’s important to note that some attacks can’t just be wished away like this. The more severe asthma sufferers will eventually need their medicine, and getting to said medicine should be the first priority after calming down. But relaxed, rational thought regarding the situation comes first when no inhaler is available, as it will steady the sufferer long enough to get the necessary medicine and avoid a horrible trip to the hospital.