I'm a little fuzzy on the language of "attack" when referring to asthma, but one of my characters runs for a while and then gets wheezy+tightness of chest. Their inhaler is a three mile walk away, and ambulances can't be called for plot reasons. Could they survive the walk with rest periods/be able to talk? Could they later spend a couple of months carrying a rescue inhaler but no prescription meds? (If it helps, they've never been hospitalized for an attack and rarely have them)
Hey there nonny! I have a two-part series on Asthma coming sometime in the next month or two – I’m finally getting back into writing posts, which is so nice – but here’s the skinny.
Asthma is one of those annoying positive feedback loops. That is, they get some inflammation in their bronchi and bronchioles, which makes them wheeze. Wheezing is scary, and it can set off more of an immune response, which triggers more inflammation.
A “rescue inhaler,” or albuterol (trade names: Ventolin, Proventil, ProAir, about 8 million more across the globe) helps by giving what’s called a beta agonist that encourages the bronchioles to open up. Other meds for asthma knock down the inflammation (steroids) or help dry out the secretions that come along for the ride (anticholinergics).
Albuterol is a great fix for mild or even moderate asthma attacks, which it sounds like yours is, but it isn’t always enough even in those cases.
As for walking for miles… it’s possible, but it’s going to make them a lot worse. The longer an attack goes on the harder it is to break, because that cycle goes on for longer, and the more severe it will become. I wouldn’t throw the book across the room if I read it, though.
My suggestion would be, as with all things, ramp up the challenges. Over time, have their breath get shorter and shorter, the need for rest more frequent. One thing people don’t always describe about asthma is the fear. It’s realyl hard to not get terrified at the feeling of being unable to breathe. (If you want to try this for yourself and you’re not asthmatic or have heart conditions, try breathing through a straw for a few minutes. You’ll get the claw-at-your-own-chest sensation, which just ramps up over time.)
So I would say yes, this is believable, it’s okay if you decide that even after they get their inhaler it doesn’t fix things completely and they need to go to the ER, they should be exhausted by the end, ramp up the exhaustion / trouble breathing / fear. Sentences might come out whole at first, but by the end, they should come out in 4-5 word bursts.
Oh, and they’ll likely be exhausted once their inhaler kicks in and they feel better. They may also feel very shaky.
Also, consider the implications of having someone else involved. Does a friend swoop in with a car at the last minute? What about having someone walk with them and having the character’s fear reflected in their behavior?
I hope that all of this helps!