How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Asthma
Your healthcare provider will review your medical history, including information about your parents and siblings. Your provider will also ask you about your symptoms. Your provider will need to know any history of allergies, eczema and other lung diseases.
Your provider may order spirometry. This test measures airflow through your lungs and is used to diagnose and monitor your progress with treatment. Your healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray, blood test or skin test.
Acute Exacerbation Of Asthma
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What happens during an acute exacerbation of asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease. It causes inflammation and narrowing of your airways. This can affect your airflow.
The symptoms of asthma come and go. When symptoms flare up and get progressively worse, it can be called:
- an exacerbation
Even if youve had exacerbations before and know what to do, its still a good idea to contact your doctor. An acute exacerbation of asthma is serious and can even become life-threatening. Thats why its important to recognize the symptoms early and to take appropriate action.
Its important to develop an asthma plan for how to treat your symptoms. Work with your doctor to come up with a method for what to do when your symptoms flare up.
Asthma Is A Complex Condition
Occasionally, people with asthma experience what are known as silent symptoms. This is where the signs of the tightening of the airways dont result in the familiar asthma sounds of wheezing and coughing. If you or someone you live with, work with, or care for experiences silent symptoms, it is important they consult a doctor for an ongoing Asthma Action Plan. People around the person with asthmasuch as co-workers, school teachers or daycare educators should know about the silent symptoms so they can respond if needed. Asthma can start at any age, and can be more of a problem when it starts in older adults. Dont assume if you never had asthma as a child that its not possible to develop symptoms now. Being breathless is not a normal part of getting older, it should always be checked out by a doctor.
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After An Asthma Attack
You should see a GP or asthma nurse within 48 hours of leaving hospital, or ideally on the same day if you did not need hospital treatment.
About 1 in 6 people treated in hospital for an asthma attack need hospital care again within 2 weeks, so it’s important to discuss how you can reduce your risk of future attacks.
Talk to a doctor or nurse about any changes that may need to be made to manage your condition safely.
For example, the dose of your treatment may need to be adjusted or you may need to be shown how to use your inhaler correctly.
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
Call your doctor or 911 if you experience extreme symptoms like blue lips or fingernails, or severe trouble breathing.
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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Are You Having An Asthma Attack
Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory condition that affects the airways in your lungs.
Its a widespread disease, impacting roughly 300 million people globally. Asthma can affect anyone at any age, including pediatric patients.
Its one of the leading causes of hospitalizations among children under the age of five in the United States.
When you have asthma, your lungs are hyperreactive to internal and environmental triggers.
When you come into contact with a substance or experience that triggers you, the airways in your lungs become inflamed, swollen, and narrow.
The smooth muscles that surround the airways in your lungs can spasm or tighten, and your body may begin producing excess mucus, or phlegm, that congests your airways and makes it difficult to breathe.
These symptoms are usually quickly reversible, especially if they use a rescue inhaler or another appropriate medical treatment to address their condition.
People with asthma will experience initial symptoms that gradually worsen into an asthma attack during more severe episodes.
During an asthma attack, airways become so inflamed and constricted that lung function declines and breathing becomes difficult.
Care Advice For Asthma Attack
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Individual Triggers May Serve As Warning Signs
One of the neat things about asthma is that it communicates with you, letting you know when you are around one of your asthma triggers. How it communicates is by presenting you with early warning signs of asthma.
These signs include chest tightness, anxiety, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, headache, itchy chin, and neck, etc.
To learn your individual symptoms, you will actually have to experience an asthma attack. However, by observing the signs, and learning them, you can actually prevent future asthma attacks. So, once you observe your early warning signs, consider yourself “forewarned” that you are around something that is triggering your asthma, and it’s time to stop what you are doing, remove yourself from the situation, and treat yourself according to your asthma management plan, if necessary.
When Should I Go To The Hospital
Speak with your provider about the signs of a severe asthma attack and whether you should seek emergency medical attention. Work with your provider to develop a written asthma action plan that lists what steps should be taken if an attack worsens.
People who are at a high risk of having a fatal attack should do an initial treatment and immediately seek medical help. The risk of death from asthma is higher if you:1
- Had a previous severe attack requiring intubation or stay in intensive care
- Had two or more hospital stays for asthma in the past year
- Frequently visit the emergency department for asthma
- Refill your rescue medication more than twice per month
- Have heart disease or another chronic lung disease
- Have trouble recognizing the signs of a serious attack
- Use street drugs
Signs of a severe attack that require initial treatment and immediate medical help are:1,6
- Your inhaler is not helping
- Your symptoms are getting worse
- You feel short of breath when sitting
- You can only speak in words, not using sentences or phrases
- You feel agitated or drowsy
- You hear loud wheezing on inhalation and exhalation
- Your heart rate is above 120 beats per minute
- Your fingers and lips are turning grey or blue
- Your peak expiratory flow is less than 50% of personal best
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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
Treatment Options For Severe Asthma
Your asthma treatment depends on how severe your symptoms are on a regular basis. If you have severe asthma, its likely that you already take long-term control medications. You may also have a rescue inhaler on hand just in case an asthma attack occurs.
Severe asthma attacks dont respond to regular asthma treatment, so you need emergency medical treatment if your rescue medications arent working. At the emergency room, your medical team may:
- use a test called pulse oximetry to tell how much oxygen is in your blood
- measure your PEF to determine how much and how fast you exhale
- take a nitric oxide measurement to determine bronchial tube inflammation
- measure your forced expiratory volume with a spirometry test
- perform a chest X-ray
Once your doctor confirms that youre having a severe asthma attack, they may administer one or more of the following:
- albuterol, an inhaled aerosol or powder
- ipratropium , a type of inhaled bronchodilator used when rescue inhalers alone are not enough
- oral or intravenous corticosteroids to control inflammation
- practicing breathing techniques
- eating anti-inflammatory foods
First, its important to get lots of rest post-attack. Your body needs to recover from the stress of an asthma attack, and you may also feel emotionally drained. Take time off work if needed and put chores on the back burner while you recover. Ask for help from friends and family for anything that cant wait.
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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.
What Should I Do Next
Early signs of a mild to moderate asthma attack ought to be treated at home with a rescue inhaler. You can also sit up and take slow breaths to help encourage steady breathing.
See a doctor if youre finding that you need your inhaler several times per day for more than a few days. Theyll take a look at your asthma treatment plan and see whether any modifications need to be made, such as prescribing different long-term controller medications.
Go an urgent care center or emergency department if your symptoms are severe or if youre having difficulty breathing.
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Hows An Acute Exacerbation Of Asthma Diagnosed
If youve had an acute exacerbation before, youll probably recognize the symptoms. Your doctor will be able to make a quick diagnosis.
If its your first acute exacerbation, your doctor will need to know your medical history, particularly your history of asthma. To make a proper diagnosis, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and a test of your lung function.
There are several tests that may be used to see how well your lungs are working:
Having An Asthma Action Plan
You and your doctor will also put together an asthma action plan. This is a personalised set of instructions that includes a list of your usual asthma medications and doses, guidance on what to do in different situations , and your doctors contact details.
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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.
Always give adrenaline injector first, then asthma reliever if someone with known asthma and allergy to food, insects or medication has sudden breathing difficulty even if there are no skin symptoms. In case of an emergency, call triple zero and ask for an ambulance.
What Is An Asthma Attack
An asthma attack is a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms caused by the tightening of muscles around your airways. This tightening is called a bronchospasm. During the asthma attack, the lining of the airways also becomes swollen or inflamed and thicker mucus — more than normal — is produced. All of these factors — bronchospasm, inflammation, and mucus production — cause symptoms of an asthma attack such as trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty performing normal daily activities. Other symptoms of an asthma attack can include:
- Severe wheezing when breathing both in and out
- Coughing that won’t stop
- Worsening symptoms despite use of your medications
if you have any of these symptoms.
Some people with asthma may go for extended periods without having an asthma attack or other symptoms, interrupted by periodic worsening of their symptoms due to exposure to asthma triggers such as exercise or exposure to cold air.
Mild asthma attacks are generally more common. Usually, the airways open up within a few minutes to a few hours after treatment. Severe asthma attacks are less common but last longer and require immediate medical help. It is important to recognize and treat even mild symptoms of an asthma attack to help you prevent severe episodes and keep asthma under control.
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What Causes An Asthma Attack
An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to asthma triggers. Your asthma triggers can be very different from someone elses asthma triggers. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you cant avoid your triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, smoke from burning wood or grass, and infections like flu.
Early Warning Signs Vary But May Include: 3
- Frequent cough, especially at night
- Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath during the course of the day
- Feeling very tired or weak when exercising
- Wheezing or coughing after exercise
- Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody or being uncharacteristically irritable
- Decreases or changes in your peak expiratory flow rate
- Signs of a cold, upper respiratory infection, or allergies
- Trouble sleeping
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to apply to all our readers. These particular early signs tend to be the most common ones reported. Your own early warning signs will be unique to your individual asthma condition. If you are attuned to your own early warning signs, it can go a long way towards helping to maintain control over your asthma condition.
If you have early warning signs or symptoms, you may be able to prevent the exacerbation or poor control by taking more asthma medication. This should all be described in your own individualized Asthma Action Plan.4
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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:
- 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: