Q. I want to thank you for helping me out of a medical emergency. I was flying across country and had packed my asthma medicine in my carry-on luggage. The flight was too full and there was not enough room for my case so the flight attendant checked it.

During the flight I began to have an asthma attack. They didn’t have my medicine in the first aid kit and I started to panic. Luckily I remembered reading in your book, The People’s Pharmacy, that coffee can help in such a situation. I drank four cups and my breathing gradually improved. I am so grateful.

A. We are delighted that the coffee remedy helped you out of a jam. Obviously, you had planned well in packing your asthma medicine to be with you on the plane. But sometimes good plans go awry.

Caffeine was recognized as an effective asthma treatment as long ago as 1859. It is chemically related to theophylline, a time-honored medication for asthma. Studies have shown that approximately 3 cups of strong coffee can open airways and provide relief for a mild attack. By the way, research proving that the caffeine in coffee can ease asthma symptoms was published in no less a journal than the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

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  1. jcf

    Would a soft drink having caffeine have produced the same results? Would it be as effective for people who drink caffeine drinks all the time. I know Coke or Dr Pepper helps when I have a migraine but would it have the same effect if I drank it all the time. I also have asthma but when flying I always keep my rescue inhaler in my purse which they won’t take away from you like your larger carry on.

  2. Tracy

    I am an international Flight Attendant. This is very useful information. I think we do have some kind of asthma medication in our enhanced medical kit, but just in case I now know we can use coffee as a backup plan. Thanks.

  3. W.H.

    I have had intermittent asthma for several years. It began as severe asthma in my teens. Through many avenues, I have lessened the severity and frequency of attacks by about 80%. I have used deep breathing techniques, cut out dairy products, and used herbal products such as sage tea, mullein leaf and lung formulas easily found on the market.
    Whenever I am feeling tightness and the subsequent anxiety, I use both my hands and work the sore points just underneath the collar bone and down alongside and on the sternum (breast bone). They are usually sore, and as I keep breathing and rubbing, my breath eases and I know I’ll be fine. It almost always clears up within a few minutes.
    I do have an inhaler but rarely use it. I am allergic to horses, closed barns, rabbits and other things. I avoid those as much as possible.
    So, when coffee isn’t immediately available, or even with coffee, try the chest rubbing. Working those sore points when not having an attack can also help. They are acupressure points for the lungs.
    May these hints help!

  4. CAB

    Wow, thanks. I hadn’t heard about this. Great news.

  5. Mary

    Just wondering. Would dark chocolate have a similar effect? It doesn’t have the caffeine, but the theobromine might help. Strong caffeinated tea might also have an effect.

  6. cpmt

    some times water also helps. you should always carry on your medication, AND YOU TELL THEM THAT, they can’t take it from you.

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