Young man with asthma practicing breathing exercises.

Having asthma issues? Don’t panic

When you have asthma, the fear of triggering an asthma attack can be a burden. But you don’t have to live in fear of oncoming asthma attacks or other breathing difficulties. In fact, you can help prepare yourself with a couple simple deep breathing exercises, according to Bhagat Aulakh, MD, a respiratory specialist with OSF Medical Group – Lung & Pulmonology.

“It’s about focusing on slower, deeper breathing,” Dr. Aulakh said. “Focus on slowing down, relaxing and taking a deep breath – the things that can be hard to do when you’re panicked because you can’t breathe. When you’re panicked, you start breathing fast and it gets worse.”

Pursed lip breathing

“You take a deep breath and rather than blow out all the air at once, you purse your lips to slow the flow of exhaling air,” Dr. Aulakh said. “It holds air pressure in your lungs longer, helping condition them to perform more efficiently and effectively.”

Here’s what you do:

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose.
  2. Purse your lips and breathe out through your mouth for twice as long as you breathed in.

Diaphragmic breathing

“If you can re-center your focus to taking slow deep breaths into your belly, holding and releasing slowly, it can be really helpful,” Dr. Aulakh said.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Slowly take in deep breaths through your nose, with longer exhales through your mouth.
  2. Rather than using your chest, use your belly. Watch it rise and fall as your belly draws air in and out.

Keep at it

These deep breathing practices can prove to be helpful if you feel like an asthma attack may be coming on, Dr. Aulakh said, but by doing them regularly, they can also help prevent breathing issues from happening.

Like any skill, deep breathing takes practice to master and to train your body. Dr. Aulakh suggests practicing these techniques for five or 10 minutes every day.

The American Lung Institute has more helpful tips for these exercises and instructional videos to help.

What more you can do

In general, two of the biggest things you can do to help with your asthma are to stay active and keep your weight down, Dr. Aulakh said.

“Staying active is the best thing you can do for asthma,” he said. “Just be sure to pick the right times to exercise. Avoid the outdoors when it’s too hot or if there’s high pollen or high humidity.”

Pulmonary rehabilitation therapists, like OSF Rehabilitation experts Dr. Aulakh works with regularly in Peoria, are also a great resource. They can help you learn and practice helpful exercises. Speak with a pulmonologist about your options, and whether pulmonary rehab is right for you.

Check here for more information about asthma, including symptoms and safety tips.

Last Updated: April 14, 2022

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About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and was a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: Lung & Respiratory Health