What Preppers Need to Know About Asthma

Did you ever think about the fact that pharmacies are just as vulnerable as grocery stores during SHTF? Images of empty grocery store shelves in Venezuela and Puerto Rico are stark reminders of why we store extra food. But, if you have an illness that requires medication, such as asthma, it’s time to get prepped. In an already bad situation, can you imagine the helplessness you’d feel if your child or other loved one was having an asthma attack and you weren’t prepared to treat them?

According to the CDC, 1 in 12 people suffer from asthma and that number is increasing every year. So, chances are, you or someone you care about needs to be prepared for dealing with asthma during an emergency. You may not always be able to rely on rescue inhalers. It’s time to get some backups – and then backups for your backups.

Asthma Overview


Asthma is a condition that makes breathing difficult. The airways swell, constrict, and can fill with mucus. Sometimes asthma manifests as wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Other times, people with asthma can have a full-blown asthma attack. These attacks can range from minor to life-threatening.

We don’t know what causes asthma. We do know that there are some common triggers. According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma commonly flares up under the following situations:

  • Exercise-Induced Asthma (worse when the air is cold and/or dry)
  • Occupational Asthma (triggered by exposure to various chemicals)
  • Allergy-Induced Asthma (triggered by airborne irritants, like pet dander, pollen, mold, etc.)

While asthma cannot be cured, symptoms can be managed. This is commonly done with medications. Rescue inhalers provide immediate, short-term relief for acute symptoms. Corticosteroids help reduce the frequency of asthma symptoms. Allergy medication may also help prevent triggering asthma symptoms.

Are Pharmacies Really At Risk?


Pharmacies are just as vulnerable as grocery stores and every other business that relies on frequent shipments for inventory. Pharmacies rely on the same “just in time” inventory systems that grocery stores do. Any form of disruption could leave a drug store without resupply.

North Korea’s recent test launch of its most powerful ICBM that can reach as far as Chicago, raises the specter of both nuclear and EMP attack. The NotPetya ransomware attack disrupted international shipping giant Maersk’s operations for two weeks. A truckers strike would bring the US to a screeching halt.

How to Prep for Asthma in a Crisis


From working with asthmatics in my herbal practice, as well as helping an asthmatic friend get better prepped for long-term emergencies, I have a number of tips to pass along. Here are some easy, actionable steps you can take to manage asthma symptoms in an SHTF situation.

Conventional Options

  • Order your meds ahead. Many pharmacies will give people an option of buying 2-3 months worth of medication in advance when ordering online.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra script. Not all doctors will do this, and not all health insurance plans will pay for this. But, some doctors will write you an extra prescription to have on hand for emergencies, so it never hurts to ask.
  • Store OTC asthma medicine. Primatene Mist is no longer available because it contained CFCs. (Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned since 1996 because they destroy the ozone layer.) However, non-prescription medicine for use with a nebulizer is available free of CFCs. These aren’t a perfect solution. If you use too much, it can make you lightheaded and cause your heart to race. But, they can be an important part of your emergency, SHTF healthcare preps.
  • Basic, at-home diagnostic equipment. Two relatively inexpensive items to have on hand are a pulse oximeter to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood, and a peak flow meter which will measure how well the air is moving out of your lungs.
  • Protect your equipment against EMPs. Ever since North Korea launched its latest ICBM, concern over EMP attack has been through the roof. Simple blackout bags can protect your healthcare equipment. You will still need a power source to run the nebulizer, so plan for that too.
  • Stock up on OTC allergy medicines. If allergies trigger your asthma attacks, this is a no-brainer. Over-the-counter allergy medicines are readily available now. You can get these at your local drug, grocery, and even wholesale stores.

Herbal and Natural Remedies

  • Stock up on coffee. The caffeine in a hot cup of coffee can often stop an asthma attack if you catch it early. Make sure to have an off-grid way to make coffee, such as with an emergency stove for heat and a French press for brewing. Coffee also helps with constriction in cases of bronchitis. (Here’s a 350-serving coffee kit complete with a French press.)
  • Grow Codonopsis pilosa. Grow codonopsis, aka dang shen, in your medicinal herb garden. The root is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedy for asthma. Codonopsis is traditionally used to reduce the frequency of asthmatic symptoms, as opposed to acute asthma attacks. Codonopsis isn’t something you typically find at your local nursery, but you can get the seeds from Strictly Medicinal Seeds.
  • Have a cup of Mormon Tea. Mormon Tea is made from any of several types of ephedra species, such as Ephedra nevadensis and Ephedra sinica. The FDA took ephedra off the market because of serious reactions when abused as a weight loss supplement. Even though the amounts used are not naturally found in a cup of tea, the FDA banned all use of ephedra in commercially prepared products. You can, however, grow it and wildcraft it.
  • Lobelia tincture. One of the most helpful herbs for the lungs is lobelia. Lobelia is an herbal antispasmodic and expectorant. It is a specific for asthma in Traditional Western Herbalism.  Lobelia has tall stalks of lovely blue flowers. Make sure to prepare lobelia as a tincture, and not as a tea. When taken in tea form, lobelia is emetic, and emetic herbs can make a person nauseous enough to vomit. Making a tincture eliminates this effect. I have seen good results with 10-15 drops under the tongue every 15 minutes for acute asthma.
  • Mullein smoke. While this might sound counter-intuitive, mullein leaf smoke works wonders to relax bronchospasms. Smoke is the fastest way to bring mullein to the affected tissues. Blend mullein with lobelia and lemon balm for an effective asthma remedy. However, if smoking mullein leaf isn’t going to work for you, you can use it as an herbal steam instead.
  • Grindelia tincture. This is an effective herbal expectorant and is historically known for its use as an antitussive. It is helpful for coughs, bronchitis, and asthma.
  • Use herbal sources of antihistamines. Did you know that some herbs are sources of antihistamines? Herbs like nettle and ginkgo both contain antihistamines. If allergies trigger your asthma, a hot tea of these herbs may help you weather allergy season.

Good People Will Get Pushed to Do Bad Things


And when that happens, the last place you want to be is in a drug store, fighting for life or death medication, in the middle of a crisis. Addicts will do anything to get their next fix. Desperate parents will do desperate things to get necessary medication back home to their kids. You don’t want to be anywhere in that volatile mix. Take action to be ready now, and you will thank yourself later.

Do you have any special preps you’ve made for people you love who suffer from asthma? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Cat Ellis

About the Author

Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis is an herbalist,  massage therapist, midwifery student, and urban homesteader from New England. She keeps bees, loves gardening and canning, and practice time at the range. She teaches herbal skills on her website, Herbal Prepper. Cat is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of two books, Prepper’s Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic.

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