Buteyko Breathing: How to Stop Asthma Wheezing Without Medication
Buteyko Breathing Steps
- Relax (not easy when your breathing is distressed).
- Exhale as long as you can.
- Hold your breath. When you can't hold it any longer...
- Inhale deeply through your nose. You must inhale through your nose so that the air is cleaned, moisturized, and warmed. This works even if your nose is stuffed or runny.
- Repeat as necessary.
Sunday Night Allergy Attack
It's Sunday night, and my son, Aaron, is coughing. He woke up this morning coughing, and tonight the coughing has turned to wheezing. The wheezing makes a squeaking sound as he inhales and exhales.
Outside, the fruitless mulberry trees, junipers, and sycamores are in full bloom. As the temperature drops outside, the moisture in the air increases, and the pollen settles to the ground. This results in a higher concentration of pollen during the evening hours. Aaron is going to have trouble if something doesn't change.
We don't have an inhaler anywhere in the house. Nobody has needed one in months. His brother, who lives across town, probably has a Ventolin inhaler, so we could try borrowing his. The closest emergency room is 25 miles away. Aaron seems annoyed by the wheezing; he's not distressed or frightened. If he becomes distressed or frightened, we will go immediately to the hospital.
The Peter Principle says, "If anything can go wrong it will." I would add to that: "It will go wrong on a Saturday or a Sunday night." On a weekday, you can call the doctor and go for an evaluation during business hours. There's less anxiety, and no one needs to consider a trip to the emergency room.
A Word of Caution
Before getting into the details of the Buteyko breathing technique, I want to stress that if you are new to breathing and/or asthma issues, please do not try to diagnose or treat on your own. Go immediately to your doctor or to the emergency room.
Having a deep understanding of asthma, allergies, and wheezing is vital when dealing with a breathing crisis. My family has dealt with breathing problems for 30 years. Any parent who has asthma or has a child with asthma has a finely tuned ear. You learn to listen carefully and act before the situation gets out of control.
If you are new to wheezing/breathing difficulties and asthma, don't fool around. Get to the doctor or hospital immediately.
My Experience With Buteyko Breathing
I still have it ingrained in my mind that if the runny nose can be stopped, everything will get better. Diphenhydramine HCL is the active ingredient in Benadryl. I had to pull the label completely off before I could find the dosage information, it was on the most obscure part of the label. Then my husband remembered Buteyko breathing. Our trainer taught us to avoid hyperventilating while cycling, using this method of breathing. She said it was also good for treating asthma. I couldn't believe my husband remembered what to do.
After doing the Buteyko breathing steps, we were amazed. The results were immediate. This method of breathing helps you to train yourself to breathe through your nose. Once you reduce the rate of breathing, the amount of CO2 increases and relaxes the spasms in your lungs When muscles are relaxed they absorb oxygen better. (By definition asthma is the muscle spasms of the tiniest air sacs in the lungs. Muscle spasms prevent the absorption of oxygen.) Currently, my son has no wheezing and is nearly asleep. Buteyko breathing certainly came to the rescue for my son tonight.
Shortly after learning about Buteyko breathing I ran a 5K. As I was rounding a bend there was a lady bent over crying. I stopped, she was having trouble breathing and had used her inhaler and still couldn't breathe. I told her about the Buteyko technique and demonstrated. As we walked we did this form of deep breathing. In no time she was able to breathe and started running again. She was very happy.
One Year Later
Yesterday was the first day of spring. I have a terrible cold. Buteyko breathing helps you breathe when you have a cold too. At the first sign of what I call the "Dry asthma cough," I began to intentionally slow my breathing. Follow Buteyko breathing, exhale, hold, inhale deeply through the nose for as long as you can. While doing this hold your nostrils open. Repeat until the dry cough is gone. Usually, two or three cycles of this technique will stop the cough. Once you are breathing well, relax; enjoy breathing.
Identify Your Asthma Triggers
Years ago, I thought, "If this kid's runny nose would just stop running he won't have an asthma attack." The advice nurse always agreed. She would tell me to give the boy a cold remedy for children that was orange. They were specific about it being the orange medicine. Son # 1 would go immediately into an acute asthma attack. Off to the emergency room, minutes away. I am ashamed to say I took the advice nurses suggestions for at least 3 years. Then I read an article about yellow #5 being an asthma trigger. It seems like yellow #5 is in everything: cold medicine, jelly beans, even Gatorade. We changed cold medication and went to a pediatric pulmonary specialist. He was able to help us control our son's asthma and taught us some skills to handle our son's drama.
Finding the allergy triggers for your family is important. Yellow number #5 wasn't a problem for us until the nose was runny; then it was a big problem. We also discovered cottonwood trees and mold under the rim of the shower was a trigger. We switched to a purple cold medicine. the asthma attacks stopped happening every 3 weeks. They actually stretched to several years between attacks. We also left behind the Cottonwood trees the boy was allergic to when we moved. Our new home, in the town where I lived during high school, had allergies that gave my husband difficulty, but not my son.
Learning your asthma triggers it helps if you avoid or manage them. Research in the past few years is turning away from the idea that you must stay away from your triggers completely. Now the thinking is that our environments are too sanitized. With two Border Collies and a large dusty backyard, this isn't our problem. Still, every time someone in the family has allergies I start cleaning. Except tonight, we are extremely clean after a party yesterday. So, here we are, Sunday night everyone's nose is dripping from allergies. Aaron is wheezing, We know our triggers are high and nobody wants to drive 25 miles to hear the ER doctor say, "You have allergies/asthma. You should have an inhaler."
"I already know that," says my bad attitude.
Difficulty breathing should never be treated casually, This method of controlling asthma should be used before an asthma attack begins. Buteyko breathing can be used on the way to the hospital, but never in as a stand alone solution in the midst of breathing crisis. This is especially important to remember if you have never experienced asthma before.