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:
What Should I Do If I Have A Severe Asthma Attack
A severe asthma attack needs immediate medical care. The first step is your rescue inhaler. A rescue inhaler uses fast-acting medicines to open up your airways. Its different than your normal maintenance inhaler, which you use every day. You should only use the rescue inhaler in an emergency.
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.
What Is Happening During An Asthma Attack
During an asthma attack, a person is literally drowning in air. Your childs airways inflame and swell. Muscles responsible for breathing contract and the respiratory system begins to produce extra mucus. The tubes that deliver air in and out of the lungs become more narrow.
This causes wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing. Look for additional symptoms that include:
- Severe shortness of breath
Quick-acting medications, most often albuterol that is delivered with an inhaler or nebulizer machine, can resolve symptoms by relaxing the airway muscles. In more severe cases, systemic corticosteroids may be administered to reduce airway inflammation.
If youve given your child their rescue medication, stay calm, but observant. If symptoms dont improve and your childs attack persists, call our office right away. If its after hours or your childs symptoms are severe and they cannot breathe, seek emergency care, because an asthma attack can be life-threatening.
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Bronchial Asthma: A Complex Disease
Bronchial asthma is a chronic disease characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness to a series of allergens or irritants. Coexistence of airway inflammation and remodelling has led to the hypothesis that the disease is inflammatory in nature, although the relationship between the inflammatory process and AHR has not been consistently shown. For example, studies examined by Brusasco etÃ¢al. revealed that markers of inflammation correlated with AHR in no more than 50% of the cases. In addition, pharmacological interventions have shown that inflammation can be modified independently of AHR and vice versa. It is significant that, despite a multitude of studies on cellular and molecular lung biology and immunology, the precise pathogenesis of asthma still remains unknown. In this review, we examine the disease from a different perspective. Specifically, we suggest that the pathogenesis of asthma can be better understood if we start from the principle that the lung is a complex organ and any chronic disease affecting it will also become complex.
What Are The Signs Of A Severe Asthma Attack
Asthma may lead to a medical emergency.
Rescue inhalers can help you: otc inhalers
Seek medical help immediately for:
- Fast breathing with chest retractions
- Cyanosis which is tissue color changes on mucus membranes and fingertips or nail beds – the color appears grayish or whitish on darker skin tones and bluish on lighter skin tones
- Rapid movement of nostrils
- Ribs or stomach moving in and out deeply and rapidly
- Expanded chest that does not deflate when you exhale
- Infants with asthma who fail to respond to or recognize parents
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/9what Is An Asthma Attack
Asthma is a condition in which the airways that deliver air to the lungs narrows, swells and may start producing extra mucus. When you breathe in irritantssuch as pollen, dust, dry air, pet dander, or smoke, the airways become even more swollen and the muscles surrounding them tighten. It can make it difficult to breathe and lead to asthma attacks. The condition is irreversible and can only be controlled through treatment.
Dr Rommel Tickoo, director, internal medicine at Max Hospitals-Saket, Delhi said that a minor asthma attack can be easily managed at home with the help of a nebulizers and inhalers. Only those suffering from severe asthma attacks need hospitalisation.
He further said that “the episodes of a severe asthma attack are common among those who have chest related issues, chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD and smokers. Others may experience it 1-2 times in a year, whenever exposed to irritants.”
To act promptly in such a situation, you must be familiar with what an asthma attack looks like. Here are 6 common symptoms of an asthma attack.
Can Asthma Be Cured
Most people with asthma are able to control their condition if they work together with a health care provider and follow their treatment regimen carefully.
People who do not seek medical care or do not follow an appropriate treatment plan are likely to experience worsening of their asthma and deterioration in their ability to function normally.
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How Is Asthma Prevented And Treated
There is no cure for asthma. Control symptoms by taking asthma medicines and avoiding your triggers. With proper treatment and an asthma management plan, you can reduce your symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.
Talk to your health care provider about your asthma symptoms and be sure to discuss any changes in your asthma management or status.
Always Stay Prepared For An Asthma Attack
An asthma attack can occur at any time, so it is best to stay ready. If you have an asthma attack and are unable to speak, a medical ID can advocate for you, which could lead to life-saving treatment. Always take breaks between tasks and avoid activities that make your symptoms worse. If your child has asthma, focus attention on the things your child can do, not on the things he or she cant.
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Advice For Friends And Family
It’s important that your friends and family know how to help in an emergency.
It can be useful to make copies of your personal asthma action plan and share it with others who may need to know what to do when you have an attack.
You can photocopy your existing plan, or you could download a blank personal asthma action plan from Asthma UK and fill it in for anyone who might need a copy.
Or you could take a photo of your action plan on your phone, so you can show or send it to others easily.
Page last reviewed: 19 April 2021 Next review due: 19 April 2024
Why Is My Child Having An Asthma Attack
Children are susceptible to specific triggers, which causes an increased narrowing and inflammation in their airways, leading to an asthma attack. For some children, the common cold can be a trigger.
Other triggers for an asthma attack can include exposure to smoke or allergens, including dust mites, pollen, and animal dander. Even strong scents, such as perfume or room deodorizers, changes in weather, hard play time or sports events, and crying or laughing are possible triggers.
Dr. Lubega helps you determine what triggers exacerbate your childs condition so you can avoid them. Triggers arent always avoidable, however, and your child may experience a worsening of their condition.
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What Is An Asthma Action Plan
Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop an asthma action plan. This plan tells you how and when to use your medicines. It also tells you what to do if your asthma gets worse and when to seek emergency care. Understand the plan and ask your healthcare provider about anything you dont understand.
Blood Oxygen Level Tests
During a severe asthma attack, it may be necessary to check the level of oxygen in your blood. This can be done using a pulse oximeter. A pulse oximeter is a small device thats placed on the end of your finger. The test takes a few seconds to complete and can even be performed at home.
Shop for a pulse oximeter to use at home.
Most of the time, asthma exacerbations can be managed at home or with a visit to your doctor. The asthma plan you developed with your doctor can help you manage your symptoms and acute attacks.
However, acute exacerbations often result in a trip to the emergency room. Emergency treatment may include:
- inhaled beta-2 agonists, such as albuterol
- corticosteroids, such as fluticasone
An acute exacerbation requires close monitoring. Your doctor may repeat diagnostic tests several times. You wont be discharged until your lungs are functioning adequately. If your breathing continues to be labored, you may have to be admitted for a few days until you recover.
You may need to take corticosteroids for several days following the exacerbation. Your doctor may also recommend follow-up care.
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Personal Asthma Action Plan
As part of your initial assessment, you should be encouraged to draw up a personal asthma action plan with your GP or asthma nurse.
If youve been admitted to hospital because of an asthma attack, you should be offered an action plan before you go home.
The action plan should include information about your asthma medicines, and will help you recognise when your symptoms are getting worse and what steps to take. You should also be given information about what to do if you have an asthma attack.
Your personal asthma action plan should be reviewed with your GP or asthma nurse at least once a year, or more frequently if your symptoms are severe.
As part of your asthma plan, you may be given a peak flow meter. This will give you another way of monitoring your asthma, rather than relying only on symptoms, so you can recognise deterioration earlier and take appropriate steps.
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What Causes Asthma Attacks
Having asthma is like having a touchy airway, says Richard Castriotta, MD, director of the Division of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. This airway i.e., the bronchial tubes that usher air in and out of our lungs overreacts to a large number of irritants that don’t bother other people, he explains.
Some doctors also describe an asthma attack as an asthma exacerbation. Thats because the airways may become tightly constricted during an asthma attack. But constriction isnt the only problem these airways also become inflamed and swollen. The exact cause of asthma is not known, but it’s probably a combination of genetic risk and environmental factors.
Asthma attacks often occur in response to “triggers,” or elements in your environment that increase the irritation in your airways. Triggers vary from person to person. You may be able to tell immediately if something causes asthma symptoms, or you might need to be tested for allergies to find out what’s causing your symptoms.
According to the AAAAI, some of the most common asthma triggers are:
- Nitrogen dioxide from gas heaters and stoves
- Dust mites or cockroaches
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Asthma And Your Respiratory System
When youve been diagnosed with asthma, the lining of your airways tends to always be hypersensitive meaning that theyre often inflamed and red. This means that patients may have flare-ups after exercising, being outdoors in cold weather, being sick, or having an allergy attack.
However, when exposed to an allergen, your bodys response is to trigger an asthma attack to protect you from potential harm. When your bodys immune system is triggered, your airways will swell even more in an attempt to block out the allergen. The muscles that surround your airways will also tighten, which is what makes it harder to breathe. Its common for many patients to have a secondary asthma flare-up after their initial asthma attack.
Care Advice For Asthma Attack
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Hypoxemia Hypercapnia And Lactic Acidosis
Intrapulmonary shunt appears to be practically absent in the majority of patients because of the collateral ventilation, the effectiveness of the hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction, and the fact that the airway obstruction can never be functionally complete . Hypoxemia is therefore common in every asthmatic crisis of some severity mild hypoxia is easily corrected with the administration of relatively low concentrations of supplemental oxygen . More severe hypoxemia and the need for higher concentrations of supplemental oxygen may relate to some contribution of shunt physiology.
Analysis of arterial blood gases is important in the management of patients with acute, severe asthma, but it is not predictive of outcome. In the early stages of acute, severe asthma, analysis of arterial blood gases usually reveals mild hypoxemia, hypocapnia and respiratory alkalosis. If the deterioration in the patientâs clinical status lasts for a few days there may be some compensatory renal bicarbonate secretion, which manifests as a non-anion-gap metabolic acidosis. As the severity of airflow obstruction increases, arterial carbon dioxide first normalizes and subsequently increases because of patientâs exhaustion, inadequate alveolar ventilation and/or an increase in physiologic death space.
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The Normal Respiratory System
To understand what happens in asthma you need to be familiar with the normal breathing system and how the lungs and airways are arranged.
Normally, air entering through the mouth and nose travels through the main airway through a series of smaller branching airways called bronchi. The bronchi divide up into even smaller airways called bronchioles, which end in millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli.
When air enters the alveoli, the oxygen it contains passes through the thin membrane covering each sac into surrounding blood vessels. The oxygen attaches itself to red blood cells which then circulate around the body, releasing the oxygen into the body tissues.
What happens during an asthma attack?
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What Is An Asthma Attack
An asthma attack occurs when the muscles surrounding the airways tighten and your airways become too narrow for you to breathe effectively.
An attack can happen suddenly if your asthma is not under control and you are exposed to one of your triggers. Or it can build up slowly, over hours, days or even weeks.
It is important to learn to recognize the symptoms of worsening asthma and know what to do if you have an asthma attack.
What Triggers Asthma Attacks
When you experience an asthma attack, your airways narrow and it gets more difficult to breathe. An asthma attack can come on slowly and gradually, for example, if your usual symptoms arent so well controlled or if youve not been using your preventer inhaler as regularly as you should be. If youve got an upper airway infection then this can also trigger an asthma attack.
Other factors that can trigger asthma attacks include a sudden change in the temperature and cold weather, environmental factors, allergens and even stress or certain foods and drinks.
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