How To Recover From A Severe Asthma Attack
Some tips to recover from a severe asthma attack include:
- Rest: Having a severe asthma attack can be scary and stressful. The stress response can result in fatigue. It takes time and rest for your body to recover.
- Book a follow-up appointment: This is an opportunity to ensure that your asthma action plan is as up-to-date and effective as possible. Your healthcare provider can review the conditions that led to your asthma attack and adjust your medications or make suggestions that can help you to avoid future attacks.
- Take medications as prescribed: Poor adherence to medications has been identified as a trigger for asthma attacks and a factor that leads to a more difficult recovery. If you have questions or concerns about your medications, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
- Do not overexert yourself: You may find yourself becoming tired after even a small amount of exercise or movement. This is common after a severe asthma attack. Give it time and listen to your body.
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The updated guidelines also recommend a type of drug called a long-acting muscarinic antagonist to improve symptoms for these age groups. And for young children who wheeze only when they have a respiratory tract infection , the new guidelines recommend a short course of inhaled corticosteroids plus a rescue inhaler as needed. This can prevent worsening of breathing problems and forestall the need for corticosteroid pills.
Most asthma medications are breathed in through the use of an inhaler or nebulizer. There are two main types of inhalers a metered dose inhaler , which uses a pressurized medicine-filled canister, and a dry powder inhaler , containing medicine in powdered form. A nebulizer uses a mask and delivers medication as a mist. Its important to learn the different techniques for using these devices to ensure the medicine reaches your lungs.
There are few evidence-backed natural remedies for asthma, particularly if your case is severe. But lifestyle changes, like controlling stress, and some complementary therapies, like acupuncture, may help manage symptoms.
Make An Asthma Action Plan
If you don’t have one already, work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan. This is something you talk about and write down. It helps you tell how well-controlled your asthma is and what to do about it. Your action plan might include:
- How much medicine to take and when
- A list of your triggers and ways to avoid them
- What to do when you have specific symptoms of trouble
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Youre Coughing And Wheezing More During The Day
Another sign that your severe asthma may be getting worse is if youre coughing or wheezing more often than usual.
Talk with your doctor about adjusting your treatment plan if you constantly feel like youre about to cough. Also speak with them if you find yourself wheezing with a whistle-like sound more than once a day.
How Is Asthma Different In Older Adults
Most people with asthma experience their first symptoms at a young age. But asthma can develop for anyone at any age. It is not uncommon for adults in their 70s or 80s to develop asthma symptoms for the first time. When asthma does occur at a later age, the symptoms are much like those experienced by anyone else. The most common causes of an asthma flare up are a respiratory infection or virus, exercise, allergens, and air pollution . Allergens and irritants are substances found in our everyday environment. People who have asthma may experience wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Asthma creates a much greater risk for older adults because they are more likely to develop respiratory failure as a result of the asthma, even during mild episodes of symptoms.
Did you know . . . Older patients with mild asthma symptoms can have the same level of breathing difficulty as younger asthma patients experiencing a severe asthma episode?
Unlike asthma in younger persons, asthma in older adults rarely goes into remission. Instead, asthma is more likely to remain a potentially serious, and many times, a disabling disease.
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What Does Asthma Remission Look Likeand Can You Flare After Being In Remission
According to the NIH study, the small number of people who see their asthma completely clear up never experience asthma symptoms again, nor do they need required inhaled treatments. Other adults simply see their asthma symptoms become more and more infrequent, Dr. Li says. “The diagnosis may ‘stay’ with the patient as they are at risk of a recurrence of the symptoms, but they may not need daily controller therapy if their symptoms are intermittent or are mild,” she explains.
And sometimes, even in those who have technically experienced asthma remission, symptoms may reappear, according to a 2003 paper published in Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. The paper also shares that some adults can start to experience asthmatic symptoms even if they haven’t suffered from any since childhood.
Overall though, little is known about who is likely to see remission and who will likely need to stay on an asthma treatment for the rest of their life, so it’s a good idea to keep in contact with an asthma specialist and talk at length with them before quitting any treatments. according to Dr. Li. “My best advice is to see a specialist and understand what type of asthma ,” she says. “From there, with appropriate therapy and follow-up, that person’s asthma action plan tailored.”
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How Do I Know If A Flare
Here’s a good way to see how bad a flare-up is: measure your peak expiratory flow using a peak flow meter. Your doctor can show you how to use a peak flow meter to keep track of your asthma. A peak flow meter costs less than $30, and you only have to buy it one time. First, you find out your âpersonal bestâ peak flow. This is the highest reading you can get on the meter over a two-week period when your asthma is under good control.
Here are some general guidelines you can use to find out how serious an asthma flare-up is:
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Consider Immunotherapy Or Allergy Shots
If you have allergic asthma, immunotherapy , may help. These shots consist of small amounts of the substances youre allergic to, with gradual increases over the course of several months .
Allergy shots may be especially helpful for children with seasonal allergies, and it can help them build up immunity so they dont experience as severe of symptoms as adults.
However, its still possible for other triggers to cause asthma symptoms despite taking allergy shots.
Theres no cure for asthma. Once you have this chronic condition, you may have asthma symptoms for life. However, the severity of your symptoms varies based on:
What Triggers An Asthma Attack
Numerous triggers can cause asthma attacks, including:
Tobacco smoke While smoking is unhealthy for anyone, its particularly dangerous for people with asthma. If you smoke, you should quit.
Secondhand smoke can also trigger an asthma attack. Avoid situations in which people around you smoke. Also don’t let people smoke in a place where you spend a lot of time, such as your home or car even if you’re not present when they smoke.
Smoke from wood or grass Even though it may seem natural, smoke from these sources contains harmful gases and particles.
Avoid burning wood in your home. If you live in an area where wildfires occur, monitor air quality forecasts and try to stay inside when particle levels are at their worst.
Outdoor air pollution
Certain foods and food additives While almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, a few additives are widely believed to cause adverse reactions in some people.
Acid reflux can also trigger an asthma attack in some people, so any food that aggravates this condition may also be responsible for symptoms.
Respiratory infections These include influenza , the common cold, respiratory syncytial virus , and sinus infections.
Strong emotional statesCertain medications
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How Do I Know If My Asthma Is Not Well
A good way to know if your asthma is not well-controlled is by answering these questions:
- Do you have asthma symptoms more than two times a week?
- Do you take your quick-relief medicine more than two times a week?
- Do you wake up from asthma more than two times a month?
- Do you use oral corticosteroids more than two times a year?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, talk with your doctor.
If your asthma is not well-controlled, your daily activities may be limited. You may miss work or school. You may increase your chances of having complications from a respiratory infection. And you may be at greater risk for going to the emergency room, staying in the hospital, or even dying from asthma.
What Other Tools Can I Use For Monitoring Asthma Control
Peak Flow Meter
Sometimes doctors recommend a peak flow meter a handheld device that measures how well air moves out of your lungs. A peak flow meter, when used every day, can spot reduced airflow before you notice the signs and symptoms of an asthma episode.
Peak flow meter readings can help you monitor your asthma control. But they are just one tool. Your peak flow meter reading is not the only indicator of asthma control. Always follow your Asthma Action Plan.
Doctors use pulse oximeters to measure how much oxygen your blood is carrying. Some people with asthma may experience a drop in their oxygen levels in their blood.
Pulse oximeters you can buy online and use at home are not as accurate as medical grade devices. Monitoring your blood oxygen levels with pulse oximeters is not a recommended part of home management of asthma.
Lung Function Tests
Your allergist or pulmonologist may use different lung function tests to assess your asthma control. Learn more about the tests used to diagnose and monitor asthma.
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You Wake Up Coughing And Wheezing During The Night
If youre ever jolted awake in the middle of the night by a fit of coughing or wheezing, you may need to modify your asthma management plan.
Properly managed asthma shouldnt wake you up from sleep more than 1 or 2 nights a month. If youre losing sleep due to your symptoms more than this, it may be time to discuss treatment modifications with your doctor.
Your peak flow readings measure how well your lungs are functioning at their best. This is usually tested at home with a handheld device called a peak flow meter.
If youre a peak flow meter user, and your peak flow levels drop below 80 percent of your personal best, it may be a sign that your severe asthma is poorly managed.
Another sign that your asthma is getting worse is if your peak flow reading varies greatly from day to day. If you notice low or inconsistent numbers, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Asthma Symptoms In A Severe Allergic Reaction
People having a severe allergic reaction can also have asthma-like symptoms. If the person has an anaphylaxis action plan, follow the instructions. If they have known severe allergies and carry an adrenaline autoinjector, use that before using asthma reliever medication.In case of an emergency, call triple zero and ask for an ambulance.
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What Should I Do If I Have A Severe Asthma Attack
If you have a severe asthma attack, you need to get immediate medical care.
The first thing you should do is use your rescue inhaler. A rescue inhaler uses fast-acting medicines to open up your airways. Its different than a maintenance inhaler, which you use every day. You should use the rescue inhaler when symptoms are bothering you and you can use it more frequently if your flare is severe.
If your rescue inhaler doesnt help or you dont have it with you, go to the emergency department if you have:
- Anxiety or panic.
- Bluish fingernails, bluish lips or gray or whitish lips or gums .
- Chest pain or pressure.
- Very quick or rapid breathing.
Symptoms Of An Asthma Attack
Signs that you may be having an asthma attack include:
- your symptoms are getting worse
- your reliever inhaler isn’t helping
- you’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
- your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you can’t catch your breath
- your peak flow score is lower than normal
The symptoms will not necessarily occur suddenly. In fact, they often come on slowly over a few hours or days.
Children may also complain of a tummy or chest ache
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Altered Perception Of Airway Obstruction
Some data have suggested that for people over 65 years, those with adult-onset asthma of a longer duration may have more severe airway obstruction than those with a more recent asthma diagnosis, yet they report fewer asthma symptoms. This might adversely influence the implementation of an asthma action plan, which relies on the accurate interpretation of asthma symptoms. Older individuals might attribute respiratory symptoms to bronchitis, respiratory tract infection, obesity, poor fitness, or even to the aging process and be more accepting of a progressive decline in mobility and activity.
If You Think Your Medication Isnt Working Speak Up
Theres no reason asthma cant be well controlled, at any age, says Dr. Ellis. Ive taken care of kids with asthma whose parents were professional athletes who also had asthma and were able to stay active through all the seasons because they had the right treatment plan.
Signs that your asthma isnt well controlled include:
- The need to use your quick-relief inhaler more than 2 times per week.
- Waking up at night with symptoms more than 2 times per month.
- Refilling your quick-relief inhaler more than 2 times each year.
If youre experiencing any of these signs, reach out to your doctor to get the help and support you need. Just because you cant outgrow asthma, doesnt mean you cant get it under control.
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How Is Asthma Classified
Asthma is classified into four categories based upon frequency of symptoms and objective measures, such as peak flow measurements and/or spirometry results. These categories are: mild intermittent mild persistent moderate persistent and severe persistent. Your physician will determine the severity and control of your asthma based on how frequently you have symptoms and on lung function tests. It is important to note that a person’s asthma symptoms can change from one category to another.
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You can develop asthma at any time in your life. Its possible not to have asthma as a child and develop it later as an adult. Its also possible to have long periods where asthma is inactive, and then have symptoms return later in life.
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Can Asthma Reappear In Adults After Disappearing Years Ago
Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood. In many patients however, the symptoms will disappear or are significantly reduced after puberty. After age 20, symptoms may begin to reappear.
Researchers have tracked this tendency for reappearing asthma and found that people with childhood asthma tend to experience reappearing symptoms through their 30s and 40s at various levels of severity.
Regardless of whether your asthma is active, you should continue to avoid your known triggers and keep your rescue medications or prescriptions up-to-date and handy in case you need them.
How Is An Asthma Flare
The best thing to do first if your asthma symptoms are getting worse is to use your rescue or quick-relief medicine. Ask your doctor if you’re not sure what to use for quick-relief medicine. The usual inhaler dose is two to four puffs every 20 minutes for a total of three doses, or one nebulizer treatment if you have a home nebulizer.
You should be able to tell how serious the flare-up is after you use your quick-relief medicine. If you have a peak flow meter, check your PEF again after you use the quick-relief medicine. If your PEF is still very low, your flare-up is serious.
Your doctor may have given you a written âAsthma Action Planâ with directions for treating mild, moderate and severe flare-ups. If you don’t have an action plan, ask your doctor for written directions about treating asthma flare-ups. If you have the symptoms of a serious flare-up or if your PEF is less than 50 percent of your personal best, call your doctor right away or go directly to the nearest hospital emergency room .
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You Often Feel Short Of Breath
Another sign that your asthma is getting worse is if you start to feel out of breath even when youre not doing anything strenuous.
Its normal to feel winded after exercising or climbing more stairs than youre used to. But stationary activities like standing, sitting, or lying down shouldnt cause you to lose your breath.
What Should I Know About Covid
If you have asthma that is moderate-to-severe, or if your asthma symptoms arent well controlled, youre at greater risk of having to be hospitalized if you get COVID-19. Therefore, you should wear a mask if you go to indoor spaces with other people, get vaccinated and avoid exposure to people who have the virus.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Many people live fulfilling lives with asthma. Some professional athletes with asthma have set records in their sports. Your healthcare provider can help you find the best way to manage your asthma. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to control your symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/19/2022.
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