Asthma attack or panic attacks. - Asthma Community ...

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Asthma attack or panic attacks.

LadyCurcetti profile image
8 Replies

Hello everyone,

yesterday I had quite a bad asthma attack due to a chest infection, it was the first really bad one I've ever had so I'm petrified. I'm terrified of having another one and this is setting off panic attacks. I'm struggling to tell the difference between the two because I'm wheezing due to the chest infection.

Any advice would be appreciated

8 Replies
Lysistrata profile image

Hi, sorry to hear you're struggling! I hope you're on treatment for the asthma attack and infection, and have been advised what to do if you get worse again with your asthma? It's now the bank holiday weekend of course but if you still have concerns after it then you can always call the asthma nurses on 0300 2225800 M-F 9-5 (Tuesday-Friday next week after BH), or on WhatsApp - 07378 606728.

This post might help you to work out the difference - it's about some of the key differences between asthma, anxiety or panic, and breathing pattern disorders, and has some suggestions at the bottom for stress/panic:

These can often overlap but as you already know, aren't the same thing. It can be really tricky because as you can see, an anxiety attack usually has good sats and fast heart rate - but this can also happen with asthma! Likewise, though you're wheezing anyway at the moment from the infection, not all asthma wheezes, so not wheezing doesn't mean it can't be asthma. Often it's helpful as a quick test to think about whether you're mostly struggling to get air IN (usually not asthma unless you're also struggling with breathing out) or getting air OUT (usually asthma).

I say this only because sometimes medics can have a bit of an arbitrary idea about what asthma is and what it isn't, and ditto for anxiety, and see them as totally exclusive and independent. I think most people who have both asthma and panic issues can soon learn the differences though - often better than the medics as you're in your body and you can learn how it feels (disclaimer: I've never had a panic attack but I know people with severe asthma who do and they can generally tell very quickly which is which once they have a bit of experience of both).

The advice for panic attacks used to be breathing into a paper bag, but this is bad for asthma and no longer recommended for panic attacks. Instead, if you feel panicky you can try grounding yourself - look at something in the room and really focus on it, like you're trying to memorise it. Or focus on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This link may help:

Although it's not specific to panic, this link might also help to reassure you about asthma as it tells you what to do when if you do feel that you're struggling with asthma:

Hope this helps! And hope your infection goes soon. As ever, don't hesitate to seek help over the weekend if you find yourself struggling with the asthma or infection.

Utakemybrthaway profile image
Utakemybrthaway in reply to Lysistrata

My doc gave me Xanax, because scares CAN trigger Asthma.

Lysistrata profile image
LysistrataAdministrator in reply to Utakemybrthaway

Emotions definitely can trigger asthma in some people (not everyone).

However just to say for anyone reading that Xanax, like any drugs similar to it, should be used with caution with someone who has asthma, especially if they're having an asthma attack. I can't speak for what an individual and their doctor decides, but just something to be aware of if you have asthma as well as anxiety, or feel that emotions are a trigger for you. It may be a case of weighing up benefits/side effects but it's definitely one to discuss with a doctor. (Utakemybrthaway I'm aware your doctor gave them to you, just saying this for others).

Jasper2447 profile image
Jasper2447 in reply to Lysistrata

Sorry to hear you’re having a stressful time. I suffer from Angina too, to add to the mix ! I can only say what works for me is to


2- RELAX - try to de-stress

2- BREATHE and

4 - KEEP BREATHING, calmly and quietly bring yourself down from the fear and stress.

Sounds easy I know, but the key is to not let the conditions dominate your life- control them rather than them controlling you.

Best wishes.


Kahren profile image

I use the breathing exercises I learned on Pulmonary Rehab to control my breathing. If it is panic then slowing breathing (count 2 in through nose but 4 out through mouth) helps but when asthma less so if that makes sense.

ChrissieMons profile image

You can talk yourself down from panic. Think about what you'd say to someone having an attack of either asthma or panic - 'Come on, get a grip, breathe more slowly, that's it, you've survived this before and you'll survive this one. That's it, calmer now...' and so on. Include what's right for you with the inhalers and keep your asthma attack plan ready for anyone with you. Doesn't cure you, but it makes it a bit easier.

Lysistrata profile image
LysistrataAdministrator in reply to ChrissieMons

I think that phrasing is possibly an individual thing - I'm afraid anyone, including myself inside my head, saying that to me during an asthma attack or if I was stressing out about something would irritate me immensely and not be helpful. It may work for some people and if so great, I just think not everyone would find this phrasing helpful - we're all individuals though.

I'd agree however that finding whatever 'self-talk' works for you in either case is helpful. When I'm having an asthma attack I don't have much energy at all to deal with anything or anyone else and would not want people trying to calm me down (especially as I don't need calming down in that situation) - again, others might find this helpful.

If I'm stressed (again I haven't had an actual panic attack which I am aware is more than just 'feeling a bit stressed') I also tend to find other people trying to talk to me annoying - even though I know they're trying to be helpful! But yes along with the grounding, finding a script for yourself and having an asthma plan in place and knowing what you're doing is always helpful.

MindfulBreathing profile image

Hello, I am so sorry you're struggling. Ideally you would make an appointment to see a specialised asthma nurse - I think every doctor's surgery should have one. Discuss your symptoms with her. I found when I was panicking, my ventolin reliever helped - I also couldn't tell the difference sometimes, because when you panic or feel stressed, your chest constricts too.

What does help, is to find and nurture a coping strategy that you know has helped you in the past - if you can stand up and walk, going outdoors for a walk is ideal, especially if you can go somewhere green. Mindfulness exercises can help you focus and make you feel more grounded too. One is to close your eyes and with the tips of the fingers on one hand, gently explore the fingers, palm, and back of the other hand, just gently, but with such focus that you can feel the landscape of your hand. This hand meditation is very powerful, and if you practise it every day, you will be able to call on it when you need it. Hope this helps :)

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