Here’s what we know.
There are no home remedies for an asthma attack. Asthma is managed with medications, by avoiding triggers, and by creating an asthma action plan with your doctor.
Keep a rescue inhaler on hand for immediate relief during an attack. Check the date on the pump regularly to make sure it hasn’t expired.
Asthma attacks are potentially life-threatening. Seek emergency medical attention if your symptoms don’t improve after using the rescue inhaler.
Internet claims that tout home remedies for asthma are not backed by any scientific evidence. We’ll explain some of those remedies, why people think they work, where the evidence is lacking, and what you should actually do during an asthma attack.
Signs of an asthma attack
An asthma attack may be minor, but it can become dangerous very quickly.
During an attack, the airways narrow due to swelling and inflammation, and the muscles around them tighten.
The body also produces extra mucus, restricting the air passing through the bronchial tubes, which makes it very difficult to breathe properly.
Signs of an asthma attack include:
- coughing that won’t stop
- wheezing when breathing out
- shortness of breath
- very rapid breathing
- pale, sweaty face
Treating symptoms quickly may help prevent an asthma attack from getting worse. If symptoms don’t improve, seek emergency medical help.
Some people believe complementary treatments can help with asthma.
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 HealthTrusted Source.
Examples of such remedies include:
1. Caffeinated tea or coffee
The caffeine in black or 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, found that caffeine may slightly improve breathing function in people with asthma for up to 4hours.
Still, there isn’t enough evidence to show whether caffeine can improve asthma symptoms.
2. Eucalyptus essential oil
According to a 2013 research review, essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat asthma. One of these is eucalyptus essential oil.
A 2016 studyTrusted Source found that 1.8-cineole, the main element of eucalyptus oil, reduced airway inflammation in mice. It suggested that inhaling vapors from eucalyptus essential oil may also help people with asthma.
It’s important to note that research has found that essential oils, including eucalyptus, release potentially dangerous chemicals. More evidence is needed, but these substances may make asthma symptoms worse.
Because the FDA doesn’t monitor essential oils, it’s also important that you research the brands you choose for:
Remember to use caution when trying essential oils. Never use an essential oil if you’re having an asthma attack.
3. Lavender essential oil
Lavender is another essential oil that shows promise.
A 2014 studyTrusted Source found that inhaling diffused lavender essential oil may reduce inflammation from allergies, helping with asthma.
As with other alternative treatments, lavender oil should not be used in an emergency.
4. Breathing exercises
A 2014 research review indicated that regular breathing training may improve asthma symptoms and mental well-being. It may also lower the need for rescue medications.
The exercises aim to reduce hyperventilation. They can include:
- breathing through the nose
- slow breathing
- controlled holding of breath
More research is needed on the effectiveness of breathing exercises for asthma. This is not a technique to use during an attack.
Medical reference: Healthline