What To Do During An Asthma Attack
Given that the symptoms of an asthma attack may crop up quickly, it helps to be prepared. If this occurs, you may experience:
- The need to use your inhaler every two to three hours
- An increase in chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing
- Being woken at night due to asthma symptoms
Now that you know the answer to the frequently asked question, what does an asthma attack feel like? if you or someone youre with is experiencing it, call an ambulance or head over to the nearest clinic.
If you notice the fingertips turning blue, rapidly debilitating asthma symptoms, difficulty breathing, or not improving from the use of an inhaler, you should call for emergency assistance.
About Dr Cicily Stanton
Dr. Cicily Stanton is a Family Medicine Physician at Florida Medical Clinic. As an asthmatic herself, Dr. Stanton is uniquely aware of the challenges this condition can bring. She uses her experience to help her patients find long-term relief.
From asthma control to chronic disease management, womens health, and more, Dr. Stantons goal is to help every patient live their healthiest and happiest life.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or treatments.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed
To diagnose asthma, a healthcare provider will review your family history, medical history, and symptoms before conducting a physical exam. During the checkup, theyll focus on your lungs and heart. They may also order a chest x-ray, blood, allergy, and breathing tests. The results will tell the provider whether or not you have asthma and identify underlying conditions that may be contributing to your symptoms.
Don’t Miss: How Long Does An Asthma Flare Up Last
What Are The Symptoms Of Asthma
While symptoms vary from person to person, the most common signs of mild asthma include:
- difficulty breathing feeling breathless, even while resting, or being unable to finish full sentences before needing to take another breath
- wheezing making a whistling sound while breathing
- coughing either at specific times or after certain activities
During a severe asthma attack, you may notice more serious symptoms, such as:
- feeling very distressed, exhausted or even limp from trying to breathe
- deep sucking motions at the throat or chest while trying to breathe
Also Check: Can You Join The Army If You Have Asthma
Medications As A Preventative
Bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory medications, and immunotherapy can help manage asthma and help prevent attacks. Inhalers are bronchodilators and include beta-agonists such as albuterol, metaproterenol, and pirbuterol. Doctors prescribe them for mild, occasional symptoms as well as rescue medications to prevent an attack. Other bronchodilators, such as salmeterol and theophylline, are prescribed as controlled to reduce the number of attacks.
Anti-inflammatory medications are also controllers that patients take regularly regardless of whether they have asthma symptoms. These medications reduce inflammation that reduces mucus production and constricted airways. Doctors may prescribe several other anti-inflammatories and corticosteroids for more severe asthma.
Some asthma sufferers also benefit from regular immunotherapy injections if their triggers involve sensitivity to indoor allergens. Immunotherapy seems to work best for those with mild to moderate asthma.
Learning how to help an asthma attack also means anticipating possible episodes. Asthma patients should constantly monitor their symptoms and peak-flow readings if they have a home peak flow meter to help identify when attacks may be imminent. When symptoms flare, follow your asthma plans instructions for using your inhaler. Peak flow readings of 51 percent to 79 percent signal that you should use your rescue medications.
Recommended Reading: What Causes Asthma In Infants
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 doesnt 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 elses 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.
How Can I Prevent And Treat Asthma Symptoms
There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed. There are two steps to controlling asthma: taking medicines and avoiding or limiting asthma triggers.
To prevent asthma symptoms:
- Avoid or limit contact with your asthma triggers andallergens. Use AAFAs Healthier Home Checklist to identify asthma triggers and allergens in your home and make your indoor environment healthier.
- Get vaccinated. Respiratory infections like colds and the flu can worsen asthma. Get a flu vaccine every year. Keep your lungs healthy by getting other vaccinations as recommended.
- Create an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor. Follow it when you have symptoms. If you are having trouble staying in the Green/Go Zone, your asthma may not be well-controlled. Talk with your doctor about your treatment plan.
- Take your asthma medicines as directed. If your doctor prescribed a medicine to control your asthma, take it as directed. This may be as needed or every day. Follow your Asthma Action Plan.
- Take care of your general health. It can be hard to take care of your health but doing so can help you better manage asthma. Try to get plenty of sleep and exercise. Eat healthy foods as much as possible, stay hydrated, and find ways to manage stress.
To treat sudden asthma symptoms:
Asthma Medicines: Control and Quick-Relief or a Combination
Recommended Reading: Can Breathing Steam Help Asthma
Asthma Attack = Drowning
Even though symptoms and triggers vary from person to person, most asthmatics will feel like theyre not getting enough oxygen while having as asthma attack. And that feels like drowning.
Of course, if youre under water, you literally have no air to breathe. But when youre experiencing an asthma attack, youre surrounded by air your body just isnt doing its job of oxygenating itself efficiently.
And this is what leads to all the awful feelings experienced by those having an asthma attack.
If you dont have asthma and youre curious what this might actually feel like, try this little experiment. Get in your bed and pull the covers tightly over your head. There should be a pocket of air under the covers, but it wont last long.
As the air runs out and becomes stale, youll still be able to breathe, but it just wont feel the same as taking a big breath of fresh air. Youll soon start to feel like youre overheating and maybe even start to sweat.
This is the point where any sane person would simply take the covers off and breathe normally again. But what if you cant??? Thats the experience of an asthmatic with poorly managed asthma, having an attack without a rescue inhaler. Scary.
My Personal Experience With Recognizing Warning Signs
I can actually give an example here. I personally have a severe allergy to dust mites. When exposed to them I start sneezing, my chin itches, and I get chest tightness. These are my early warning signs. By heeding them, and getting away from dust mites right away, the symptoms usually go away on their own. However, if I wait too long, an asthma attack occurs, requiring me to resort to my Asthma Action Plan. So, I have learned through my own asthma experiences what my early warning signs are, and what to do when I observe them.
Your job as an asthmatic is to learn your early warning signs and work with your doctor on an asthma management plan for what to do when you observe them. If actually wrote a more in-depth article on this subject if you are interested: “Symptoms and Signs: How Asthma Communicates.”
Also Check: What Is Acute Exacerbation Of Bronchial Asthma
What To Do After An Asthma Attack
An asthma attack can be a learning experience if you and your doctor use it to refine your asthma action plan. Get some tips on what to do after an asthma attack.
An asthma attack is a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms that causes your air passages to become smaller and makes your breathing more difficult. Symptoms of an asthma attack may include difficult and painful breathing, coughing, and . Anyone with asthma needs to have a plan for what to do during an asthma attack. But you should also know what to do after an asthma attack.
You cant always avoid an asthma attack, but you can check in with your doctor and use an asthma attack as a way to improve your asthma management, said Jonathan Bernstein, MD, an associate professor in allergy and asthma at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center. In some cases, an asthma attack may be an indication that you need to make some changes.
Seeing your doctor after an asthma attack is especially important if you are newly diagnosed. Discussing the attack with your doctor can help you learn more about your asthma and empower you to manage your asthma better in the future, said Sumita Khatri, MD, co-director of the asthma center at the Cleveland Clinic.
How Does Asthma Affect The Lungs And Airways
The airways inside your lungs look like an upside-down tree. The respiratory system is in the chest and is made up of several different parts:
- Upper respiratory system This is the nose, sinuses, and the parts of the airway called the pharynx and the part of the larynx above the vocal chords.
- Lower respiratory system This is the portion of the larynx below the vocal chords, the trachea, bronchi and bronchioles
You May Like: How To Cure Asthma Attack Without Inhaler
You May Like: What Does Ics Stand For In Asthma
When Should I Go To The Er
Don’t be embarrassed to get medical help if you think you need it. These situations call for emergency care:
- You take your asthma medicine and your flare-up doesn’t get any better.
- You feel a little better after taking your medicine, but your symptoms come back quickly.
- You have frequent wheezing, a lasting cough, or chest pain.
- Your lips and fingernails are bluish or grayish.
- You have trouble breathing, talking, or walking.
What Is Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is when stomach acid reverses direction out of the stomach and into the esophagus and possibly the throat and upper airway. GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a severe version that affects the esophagus and often manifests with severe heartburn and sometimes chest pain. LPR, or laryngopharyngeal reflux, occurs when the reflux makes it up to the throat and/or into the larynx or voice box regions, CEENTA ENT doctorChad Kessler, MD, said. Silent reflux occurs when no significant heartburn-like symptoms are noted. Sometimes LPR and silent reflux occur simultaneously. Symptoms that may be noted are:
- Increased throat clearing
You May Like: Does Weight Gain Make Asthma Worse
Don’t Miss: Does Air Conditioning Affect Asthma
Follow Your Action Plan
Once you come up with a foolproof healthcare plan with your doctor that entails management strategies and taking medications, ensures you follow it to the letter. As an ongoing condition that calls for frequent treatment and monitoring, managing your asthma can make you feel more in control of your life.
Symptoms Of An Asthma Attack
Signs that you may be having an asthma attack include:
- your symptoms are getting worse
- your reliever inhaler is not helping
- you’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
- your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you cannot catch your breath
- your peak flow score is lower than normal
- children may also complain of a tummy or chest ache
The symptoms will not necessarily occur suddenly. In fact, they often come on slowly over a few hours or days.
Also Check: What Medicine To Put In Nebulizer For Asthma
Sighing And Quick Breathing
Shortness of breath is a classic asthma symptom. Its the result of airway constriction during a flare-up.
Taking quick breaths is a more unusual asthma symptom, though. Its done as a means of getting more oxygen into the lungs.
Rapid breathing may also come in the form of constant sighing or yawning. You may not even realize youre doing it. While sighing is often due to stress or anxiety, it occasionally can be a sign of asthma.
How Can I Prevent Asthma Flare
Asthma flare-ups can be handled, but it’s even better if you can prevent them from happening. To do that:
- Take asthma medicines as directed. If your doctor prescribed a long-term control medicine, take it each day, even when you feel fine. It needs to be taken exactly as your doctor tells you to keep protecting you against flare-ups.
- Get a flu shot each year before flu season starts.
- Avoid triggers. By knowing and avoiding your triggers, you might be able to prevent some flare-ups.
It’s important to plan ahead and know what to do. Work with your doctor to build and update your asthma action plan. That way, you know what to do if a flare-up happens and you’re in control if things get serious.
Recommended Reading: How Fast Does Dupixent Work For Asthma
What Is Good Asthma Care
Your doctor or nurse will tailor your asthma treatment to your symptoms. Sometimes you may need to be on higher levels of medication than at others.
You should be offered:
- care at your GP surgery provided by doctors and nurses trained in asthma management
- full information about your condition and how to control it
- involvement in making decisions about your treatment
- regular checks to ensure your asthma is under control and your treatment is right for you
- a written personal asthma action plan agreed with your doctor or nurse
It is also important that your GP or pharmacist teaches you how to properly use your inhaler, as this is an important part of good asthma care.
The Basics Of Diagnosing Asthma
Your doctor will probably start your examination by delving into your past medical history and asking whether any of your relatives have allergies or asthma. You’ll also be asked to describe your symptoms, their severity, and what, if anything, is triggering them.
Triggers could include cold air, dust, hairsprays, perfumes, household cleaner vapors, cigarette or cigar smoke, and air pollution, Asciuto says.
Doctors also try to narrow down the list of culprits by asking these additional questions:
- Is your cough worse at night?
- Do you have more symptoms when youre at home or at work?
- Do you have other health problems that could be causing these symptoms, such as a sinus infection or acid reflux?
Next, your doctor will listen to your breathing with a stethoscope and may order one or more of these diagnostic tests:
Its also important to note that you can have asthma without experiencing any of the hallmark symptoms. There’s no single patient profile for asthma, says Dr. Fineman. “Some will have more coughing, some more wheezing, and some have more problems breathing with exercise, he says.
Don’t Miss: How Many People Die From Asthma Each Year
What To Do If You Have An Asthma Attack
If you think you’re having an asthma attack, you should:
Never be frightened of calling for help in an emergency.
Try to take the details of your medicines with you to hospital if possible.
If your symptoms improve and you do not need to call 999, get an urgent same-day appointment to see a GP or asthma nurse.
This advice is not for people on SMART or MART treatment. If this applies to you, ask a GP or asthma nurse what to do if you have an asthma attack.
What To Do If You Think Youre Having An Asthma Attack
If you suspect youre having an attack, follow these steps:
Its safe to use an albuterol rescue inhaler even if the expiration date has passed. However, the medication inside may not be as effective, so you may need to use more of it to find relief. Dont use an inhaler thats been damaged or stored in direct sunlight.
If you dont have a rescue inhaler, call 911 immediately. In the meantime, try to remain calm and move away from nearby respiratory irritants, like cigarette smoke, pets, or outdoor pollen.
Even if you manage to get an asthma attack under control on your own, you should still visit your family doctor within the next few days. Your doctor can determine if you require additional medications, clinical testing, or if theres an underlying condition that led to the attack.
You May Like: Is There A Test For Asthma