We have all turned on the TV and watched the scenes of a character portrayed with classic asthmatic wheezing. It is called a “device” in the movie biz that is not nearly the truth for most asthma sufferers. Because of this literary device, wheezing has become one of the most emphasized signs of asthma so that most of us actually expect all asthma victims to have that tell tale wheeze when they breathe. These sounds, dubbed into movies and TV shows, like the wheeze and the raspy throat, have actually become scary to non-asthma sufferers. It is the worst side effect of the disease that is quite dramatic and used for that purpose. Because this device has become a standard in film and TV, the general public has come to believe that all asthmatics can be identified by these sounds.
Hollywood fiction is certainly not the whole truth in this instance. Actually, it is far from the truth for a large number of asthma sufferers. In fact, about half of all asthmatics do not wheeze or make raspy sounds at all, especially when following a proper treatment program. The majority, nearly 60%, have a nagging cough when suffering an episode. Wheezing actually occurs only in the most extreme cases which is why movie makers use that device when depicting asthmatics to over-dramatize the scene. But, such depictions create a false picture and may cause some borderline asthmatics to ignore real symptoms.
Wheezing is certainly a sign of severe asthma but other, less dramatic, symptoms should not be ignored. Where there is a nagging cough, breathing problems when under even mild exertion, wheezing only when sleeping or at rest, or any shortness of breath, are all possible signs that a visit to a doctor may be indicated. Remember, only the most severe asthmatics fall into the wheezing category. The majority of asthmatics do not wheeze.
Even if you are not asthmatic, it is good to know what to do if someone has an attack in your presence. The key is to be calm if you are to help that person. An attack can be frightening, especially if you do not have asthma, so it may be up to you to be calm so you can help the asthmatic get through an attack. There is nothing worse than not knowing what to do when a friend or loved one is having an attack so here are some steps that will help you to help the person having an attack.
Keeping a cool head is the main way you can help. The asthmatic may be in a panic mode so they will need you to talk to them to calm them and slow down their breathing. I am reminded of Mel Gibson in the movie “Signs” where he talks to his son who is having an attack. He has his son breathe with him in a relaxed and steady manner. For once Hollywood had it right!
Asthmatics, who are under the care of a doctor, will likely have an inhaler handy or within easy reach. If you are going to be out and about with an asthmatic, find out where their inhaler is located and be sure it can be easily reached should an attack occur. Most asthmatics will likely have their medication with them at all times but you should ask just the same. After all, it will be you who will be called upon to help should an attack occur.
Do not hesitate to call an ambulance to get the asthmatic to the nearest hospital emergency room if the attack is not mitigated by an inhaler or other measures. In most cases, you should be able to handle the situation. However, in extreme cases, the victim may pass out and emergency medical help is then warranted.
If you, yourself, are diagnosed with asthma, you likely already have a plan prescribed by your doctor as to what you need to do when an attack strikes unexpectedly. Your main goal is to first calm yourself so you can take the medical steps needed, such as using an inhaler immediately. If you allow the stress of the attack to overtake you, your breathing will worsen and you will panic even more. So, staying calm is your best first step to overcoming an attack.