Measureable Changes In Your Breathing
A peak flow meter can let you know if an attack is about to happen. Be sure you always know the number that reflects your best breathing.
- If your peak flow meter shows numbers between 50% and 80% of your personal best, an asthma attack has probably started.
- A number below 50% means an emergency. Use your rescue inhaler, and call for help right away.
What Are The Triggers
There are many different triggers for asthma attacks. Many asthmatics are well aware of their trigger points. However, they may not always be able to avoid them.
Pollen and pollution are increasingly responsible for triggering asthma. Many people find a worsening of their symptoms in Spring, combined with the onset of hay fever. There are many species of grasses, trees and weeds in the UK. Some people are particularly sensitive to some and do not react at all to others. There is also huge variation around the country as to when pollen is released. People can begin to suffer from hay fever as early as January. About 20% of people with hay fever are allergic to birch tree pollen and this, as well as oak and plane trees, are responsible for many unpleasant symptoms and can exacerbate asthma.
Grass pollens are the most common cause of hay fever and usually affect people in May, June and July.
Weed pollens usually release pollen from early spring to early autumn.
If you know pollen is a trigger for your asthma, speak to your GP or asthma nurse.
The Met Office issues really useful pollen advice.
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Often people find it particularly difficult to breathe out and have an increase in sticky mucus and phlegm
Its important to note that not everyone will get all of these symptoms.
When Is It Serious
To help you know when you need medical attention, use a peak flow meter every day so you know how much air typically flows out of your lungs. People with asthma have a lower air flow in and out of their lungs. By tracking your peak flow levels regularly, you can spot problems early before you experience annoying or dangerous symptoms. A meter will also tell you and your doctor how serious your asthma attacks are. That way youll know when to take medicine or seek emergency care. And peak flow readings can also help you pinpoint your asthma triggers.
Some signs that your asthma is worse:
- Having symptoms at night
- rescue medicine more often
If you need medical assistance, contact CareFinders at 1-866-608-FIND to make an appointment with a physician, or call 911 immediately if it is an emergency.
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Asthma Attack Symptoms Vary
Asthma attacks are the same. They dont all start the same way, and they dont all progress in the exact same way, either. Asthma symptoms can come on very abruptly or acutely, or they can come on very slowly, says Dr. Wechsler. Thats one of the concerning things.
There is such a range, and its so variable, agrees Dr. Joi Lucas, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist in Orlando and author of Your Roadmap to Successful Asthma Treatment: A Parents Guide to Preparing for Your Childs Doctor Visits and Long-Term Care.
Triggers for asthma attacks vary from person to person, too, although there are a number of common triggers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists these common culprits:
- Cockroaches, mice and other pests
- Viral illnesses
Additionally, some medicines, acid reflux, fragrances, some foods, and cold dry air can trigger asthma attacks in some people.
Signs You Actually Have Severe Asthma
Breathing is just one of those things you take for granted until it feels like every inhale or exhale is a struggle. Unfortunately, people with severe asthma have to deal with breathing issues way more often than anyone should, and it can be completely terrifying.
Asthma is a respiratory condition that affects the airways that extend from your nose and mouth to your lungs, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . When youre exposed to triggers like animal fur, pollen, mold, exercise, and respiratory infections, these airways can narrow, restricting your airflow. This can then make the muscles surrounding your airways constrict, making it even harder to breathe, and cause your airways to produce more mucus than normal, further compounding the problem. All together, this can lead to asthma symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing , and chest tightness or pain, according to the NHLBI.
Like most health conditions, asthma severity runs along a spectrum, Emily Pennington, M.D., a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. Some people have cases where they experience minor symptoms here and there . Others can have asthma that is basically an ever-present problem and might result in scary asthma attacks, which is when symptoms ramp up in severity and can even become life-threatening.
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What Triggers Your Asthma
Sinus infections, allergies, pollen, breathing in some chemicals, and acid reflux can also trigger attacks. Physical exercise some medicines bad weather, such as thunderstorms or high humidity breathing in cold, dry air and some foods, food additives, and fragrances can also trigger an asthma attack.
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.
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How Can I Test Myself For Asthma
The main tests used to help diagnose asthma are:
What Do I Do If I Have An Asthma Attack
If you or a loved one is having an asthma attack and the symptoms donât get better quickly after following the asthma action plan, follow the “red zone” or emergency instructions and contact your doctor or right away. You need urgent medical attention.
1. Give asthma first aid.
If the person doesn’t have an asthma plan:
- Sit them upright comfortably and loosen tight clothing.
- If the person has asthma medication, such as an inhaler, help them take it.
- If the person doesnât have an inhaler, use one from a first aid kit. Do not borrow someone elseâs. The medicine in it may be different than the needed rescue medicine. Also, using someone else’s inhaler has a slight risk of passing on an infection.
2. Use an inhaler with a spacer, if possible.
- Remove the cap and shake the inhaler well.
- Insert the inhaler into the spacer.
- Have the person breathe out completely and put their mouth tightly around the spacer mouthpiece.
- Press the inhaler once to deliver a puff.
- Have the person breathe in slowly through their mouth and hold their breath for 10 seconds.
- Give a total of four puffs, waiting about a minute between each puff.
3. Use an inhaler without a spacer, if necessary.
4. Continue using the inhaler if breathing is still a problem.
5. Monitor the person until help arrives.
- Do not mistake drowsiness as a sign of improvement it could mean asthma is getting worse.
- Do not assume that the personâs asthma is improving if you no longer hear wheezing.
6. Follow up.
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Common Asthma Attack Triggers
An asthma trigger is an irritant that causes the airways to become inflamed and constrict. Constriction of airways marks the start of an asthma attack and can cause other symptoms like wheezing.
There isnt one single trigger of asthma. What triggers an asthma attack for one person might not be the same for another. Youll know what causes an asthma attack for you if youre exposed to an irritant and have shortness of breath or start wheezing. The most common triggers are:
How Will You Describe An Asthma Attack
If you ask this question to n number to asthmatics, you will get n number of different answers. Mostly people do not have the same feelings regarding an asthma attack. It is very true that asthma varies from person to person and so does its symptoms. In fact, a single person can get different types of asthma attacks. So, let us check out how do people define their feelings regarding an asthma attack
There is a huge weight on my chest.
Can you imagine a huge weight, probably an elephant sitting on someones chest and squashing them hard? Exactly that feeling. The weight feels so heavy that there is hardly any space for the air to get in and out. It is very difficult to breathe, no matter what position you are in.
I feel like Im drowning.
This is the most common answer that asthmatics give. The attack feels like you are drowning, you are trying hard to breathe but it is impossible. This suffocation is terrible and dreadful.
It is impossible to catch the breath as I cough so much.
Normally, coughing makes people short of breath. Coughing out the mucus in lungs really makes breathing difficult. It is also possible to get short of breath if you are having a ticklish feeling in your lungs.
There is a tight feeling inside the chest.
It is like you are wearing extremely tight clothes and trying to breathe through a straw. You struggle to take in air and it does not go in. People gasp for breath in such times. This tight feeling is due to the airway tightening.
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I Have Learned To Stay Calm
At 13, in my schools sports class, I noticed that I couldnt compete with the others in the physical tests because I became easily short of breath. I should have been fit because I had been practising judo since I was 4.
I went to see a doctor and after several tests I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. Its an asthma type thats normally triggered by strenuous exercise.
I am always on alert when I exercise. It feels distressing to know that if I cant breathe, my brain wont get enough oxygen and I might end up losing my consciousness.
During my military service we were marching back to the camp site. I was wearing a flak jacket that was very tight. It was limiting the movement of my lungs and in the afternoon the air was dusty along the road. I didnt want to stop to search for my inhaler because I would have been left behind. So I just tried to keep going. Naturally the situation got worse and I ended up falling on my knees. Our team leader helped me to take the medicine and the vest out. Soon after that I was able to keep walking again.
Asthma Attack = A Symphony In Your Chest
Whenever he listened with his stethoscope, my doctor would always tell me that it sounded like a miniature symphony was playing in my chest.
At the time I giggled at the funny metaphor, but its actually quite accurate.
As your airways constrict and fill with mucus, only tiny passages are left for the air to travel through. This makes for a very noisy, whistle-y breathing experience.
So if you think you might be having an asthmatic episode, try blocking your ears with your fingers and taking a deep slow breath. Do you hear that symphony?
And if its your child or other loved one and youre trying to assess what the problem is, try putting your ear to their chest while they try to breathe.
If you hear the little whistles and wheezes that are synonymous with an asthma attack its time to act.
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What To Do If You Are Having An Asthma Attack
If someone is having a mild asthma attack, they may be able to treat it with asthma medication, such as a quick-acting inhaler. Some mild asthma attacks may even resolve on their own.
It is important that people with asthma talk with their healthcare team about an asthma action plan. This is a plan that guides people through how to treat their asthma, depending on the symptoms they are experiencing, and what to do in case of an asthma attack.
A person will need to carry a reliever inhaler with them, which may contain asthma medication to relax the muscles around the airways. These medications include short-acting, rapid onset beta-2 agonist and anticholinergic bronchodilators.
A person can first try dealing with an asthma attack by:
- staying calm
- using quick-relief medications, usually through a blue inhaler, and following their asthma action plan
In the case of a severe asthma attack, it is essential to seek medical help or call 911 immediately. While waiting for help, a person should continue to take their inhaler medication as the manufacturer outlines.
After an asthma attack, regardless of whether medical help was necessary, the following steps are important:
According to the American Lung Association, people will need to see their doctor at least once a year if they have asthma and more frequently if they have symptoms.
A person should contact their doctor straight away if they:
Anyone who experiences any of the following needs emergency medical help:
Contact Doctor During Office Hours
- Don’t have written asthma action plan from your doctor
- Use an inhaler, but don’t have a spacer
- Miss more than 1 day of school per month for asthma
- Asthma limits exercise or sports
- Asthma attacks wake child up from sleep
- Use more than 1 inhaler per month
- No asthma check-up in more than 1 year
- You have other questions or concerns
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When To See A Doctor:
Most people dont go to the doctor for a little coughing or mild allergies, but asthma isnt always easy to diagnose, and if you think you might have it, its important to find out. If you find yourself having repeated periods of breathlessness, coughing, or wheezing, you should speak with your doctor. This is especially true if theres no apparent reason for these episodes, or if seemingly minor activities trigger them.
Your doctor will likely be able to diagnose your asthma, but you may be referred to a lung or asthma specialist for more specific treatment. If youre worried about your lung health, you may find this article about checking your lung health at home helpful.
How To Prevent An Asthma Attack
- Follow your asthma medication plan to make sure your asthma is well managed with preventive medication. When your asthma is properly under control, you shouldnt experience asthma attacks.
- There are different asthma types that all have different characteristics and triggers. Knowing your personal triggers can help you to prevent an asthma attack.
- If you experience asthma attacks or have regular symptoms of asthma, it might be time to book a check-up with your healthcare provider. This will help you to make sure you have the right type of medication for the right symptoms and situation.
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Asthma Attack = Heavy Chest
The main sensation I feel when as asthma attack begins to occur is a feeling of weight on the chest. Each breath takes extra effort.
And each breath feels like its not enough, because each breath is not getting enough oxygen to the blood stream. This is true even when I take what feels like a deep breath its just never deep enough.
For me, asthma attacks almost feel like when youve stuffed yourself on a big meal, and you feel overfull and have acid reflux.
So if you dont have asthma, imagine youve just eaten the biggest, most acidic meal of your life. Youve never felt so full. And youre sitting on your couch breathing heavy. Youve got a general sense of discomfort and burning in your upper chest area and throat.
And no matter which way you adjust your body, whether you sit up or sit down or move around or lie down the awful feelings persist.
Thats what an asthma attack feels like. Except with indigestion, you just have to wait for the food to digest. For asthmatics, its not so easy.
With uncontrolled asthma, an asthma attack will likely get worse and worse until its treated with medicine.
I talk about how its important for asthmatics to try to use their rescue inhaler less during tough moments, but a true asthma attack will need intervention.
This is why its crucial for people with asthma to always keep their rescue inhaler close by.
Even if you manage your asthma well like I do , you never know when you might need it.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma
The telltale sign of asthma is a wheezing sound stemming from your chest with every breath you take. You may also experience noticeable shortness of breath, being unable to get sufficient oxygen, coughing, and chest tightness.
One of the most common symptoms during an asthma attack is the inability to speak due to interruptions in your breathing. A multitude of patients discovers that various triggers can lead to an asthma attack, such as:
A myriad of risk factors is believed to increase your susceptibility to asthma. They include:
- Having blood relatives with asthma, such as siblings or parents
- Exposure to occupational triggers such as chemicals used in hairdressing, manufacturing, and farming
- Being overweight or obese
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Having an allergic condition such as atopic dermatitis that triggers itchy, flaky, red skin, or hay fever that causes itchy eyes, a runny nose, and chest congestion
- Frequent smoking
- Exposure to exhaust fumes and other types of pollution
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