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What Happens To The Body During An Asthma Attack

Depending On The Causes Of The Onset Two Types Of Asthma Are Distinguished:

  • non-allergic
  • allergic.

In the first case, an asthmatic attack occurs as a result of the action of an external stimulus on the breathing passages. In case of allergic asthma an attack occurs due to ingestion of allergen particles into the bronchus.

Often, exacerbation of bronchial asthma is seasonal. In this case, a person, as a rule, begins to have bronchitis with an abundance of mucus and frequent asthmatic attacks. This is mainly due to the flowering of plants person is allergic to. Exacerbations of the disease can also be accompanied by:

  • lacrimation increased
  • coryza
  • cough.

Asthma attacks of a non-allergic origin can be caused by any irritation of the bronchi. Because of their hypersensitivity spasms appear in the throat. It prevents the normal airflow into the lungs. As a result, there are a strong cough and a choking fit.

Other Asthma First Aid Directions

Not everyone with asthma uses the same reliever medication.

Some people use a different blue reliever called Bricanyl which comes in a different type of inhaler called a Turbuhaler.

See the asthma first aid steps for those using Bricanyl.

Other people use a dual-purpose reliever. A dual-purpose reliever contains budesonide and formoterol together, and is used as-needed.

The combination of budesonide and formoterol in the dual-purpose reliever, when used as-needed, relieves symptoms and reduces risk of experiencing serious asthma flare-ups. It does this by relaxing tight airway muscles and treating inflammation in the airways.

Note: you may also be prescribed these medicines as a preventer. Always follow your doctors instructions on your asthma action plan about what to use in an asthma flare-up or asthma attack.

What Happens If An Asthma Attack Goes Untreated

Without immediate asthma medicine and asthma treatment, your breathing may become more labored, and wheezing may get louder. If you use a peak flow meter during an asthma attack, your reading will probably be less than your personal best.

As your lungs continue to tighten during the asthma attack, you may be unable to use the peak flow meter at all. Gradually, your lungs may tighten so much during the asthma attack that there is not enough air movement to produce wheezing. This is sometimes called the “silent chest,” and it is a dangerous sign. You need to be taken to a hospital immediately with a severe asthma attack. Call 911 for help. Unfortunately, some people interpret the disappearance of wheezing during the asthma attack as a sign of improvement and fail to get prompt emergency care.

If you do not receive adequate treatment for an asthma attack, you may eventually be unable to speak and can develop a bluish coloring around your lips. This color change, known as “cyanosis,” means you have less and less oxygen in your blood. Without immediate aggressive treatment in an emergency room or intensive care unit, you may lose consciousness and eventually die.

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Preventing An Asthma Attack

The best way to prevent having an asthma attack is to make sure that your asthma is under control. People with asthma typically use two types of medication:

  • Long-term. This involves medication that you take every day to control airway inflammation and prevent asthma attacks. These medications can include things like inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers and long-acting bronchodilators.
  • Quick-relief. This is rescue medication that you take for short-term relief of asthma symptoms. These medications are referred to as short-acting bronchodilators and work to open your airways.

You should also work with your doctor to develop a personalized asthma action plan. This can help you to better understand and control your asthma. An asthma action plan includes:

  • your asthma triggers and how to avoid them
  • how and when to take your medications, both for symptom control and for quick relief
  • indicators of when youre controlling your asthma well and when you need to seek emergency medical attention

Your family and those close to you should have a copy of your asthma action plan so that theyll know what to do if you have an asthma attack. Additionally, it may be helpful to keep it on your phone as well, in case you need to reference it quickly.

Its possible that you may still have some questions regarding asthma attacks. Well try to answer some of these now.

What To Do If You Have An Asthma Attack

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If you think you’re having an asthma attack, you should:

  • Sit up straight try to keep calm.
  • Take one puff of your reliever inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds up to 10 puffs.
  • If you feel worse at any point, or you do not feel better after 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance.
  • If the ambulance has not arrived after 10 minutes and your symptoms are not improving, repeat step 2.
  • If your symptoms are no better after repeating step 2, and the ambulance has still not arrived, contact 999 again immediately.
  • 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.

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    What Organs Does Asthma Affect

    Asthma is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs, trachea and bronchial passages. An asthma attack occurs when the respiratory system, collectively known as the airways, constricts and prevents oxygen from flowing freely into the body, according to Dr. Miles Weinberger, professor of pediatrics at University of Iowa Childrens Hospital.

    The trachea is a long air tube leading from the neck to the upper chest cavity where it bisects to form the left and right bronchi. Each bronchus forks into several tiny passageways, or bronchioles, that deliver air to small sacs in the lungs known as alveoli. A smooth muscular lining runs throughout the airways and contains a membrane that produces mucus, which normally helps the respiratory system prevent the spread of bacteria in the lungs, says Dr. Weinberger.

    During an asthma attack, the muscular lining swells or tightens, causing labored breathing, and the mucus membrane produces excess fluid, filling up the narrow airways, notes the American Lung Association. An asthmatics respiratory organs are sensitive to specific stimuli, such as dust, pet dander, smoke or cold weather. Untreated or incorrectly managed asthma can lead to long-term respiratory damage from repeated inflammation. When the respiratory system is permanently scarred, medications lose their effectiveness and the lungs may not be able to distribute air sufficiently.

    These Chemicals Are Responsible For Airways Inflammation

    But, it’s these chemicals that are responsible for more aggressive airway inflammation. This inflammation tends to make asthma attacks more severe and difficult to treat.

    The good news is that eosinophils respond nicely to corticosteroids. This is what makes steroids a top-line treatment for asthma. But, in a small number of asthmatics, eosinophil levels stay high. This is what causes a special type of asthma called eosinophilic asthma. This is responsible for your more severe asthma.

    Severe asthma responds less well to corticosteroids. A new line of treatments called biologics come in handy here. Three newer biologics target IL5. Nucala and Cinqair bind with IL5 to render it harmless. Fesenra binds with IL5 receptors on eosinophils, making IL5 unable to communicate with them.

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    How Asthma Affects The Respiratory System

    Most people with asthma are not always experiencing symptoms they will go through times when it is worse, and other times where they feel perfectly well. Asthma can be classed as an inflammatory disease because the symptoms present when parts of the respiratory system become inflamed. When looking in more detail, it is actually the bronchi and the bronchioles which become inflamed. As well as this, there are special cells and glands which produce small amounts of mucous normally and this is normal for every human being whether they suffer from asthma or not. However, in the context of people with asthma, the mucous glands can become swollen.

    The combination of swollen glands and the inflamed bronchi and bronchioles results in a narrowed airway. This can sometimes create a wheeze or chesty cough, which is the bodys normal reaction to a narrowed airway. If you consider when you have a cold and there are extra amounts of fluid-like mucous and phlegm in your airway, your body coughs to try and remove it. However with asthma, it is actually the respiratory system inhibiting itself, so coughing does not normally actually help the problem.

    For more details on Asthma visit our video online training course at

    What To Make Of This

    Asthma – What Happens During an Asthma Attack?

    The late phase is a lot more complex than I make it out to be here. But, this is all you need to know for now. It’s this late phase that causes your more severe asthma attacks. It’s usually the reason people get to the point they need to seek help for asthma. And many of our newer asthma medicines are aimed at this late phase.

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    What Can I Do About Asthma Attacks

    The best way to manage an asthma attack is to prevent them from ever occurring. Heres how:

    • Eliminate triggers. Once you know what triggers your asthma, do your best to avoid those things, according to the AAAAI. You might have to be more rigorous about keeping a clean house or avoiding smokers, for instance.
    • Take your asthma meds exactly as directed. These drugs may prevent an asthma attack even if you cant avoid triggers. When researchers looked at health data from 32,172 Medicaid patients in Texas who had asthma, they found that people who followed their doctors recommendations for using a controller medication were less likely to have a flare of symptoms. The study, published in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy, stresses the importance of working with your health care provider so that you understand when to use controller medications and when to use rescue inhalers.
    • Treat asthma symptoms early. At the first sign of worsening symptoms, try to get away from any triggers in your environment and use your prescribed rescue medications, such as an albuterol inhaler.
    • Get additional help. If your asthma symptoms get worse or increase in number and you have been unable to prevent a full asthma attack, call your doctors office or go to the nearest emergency room for medical help. If you’re taking extra puffs of a rescue inhaler but it’s not relieving your symptoms, Dr. Lemanske says, you should go to the ER or dial 911.

    The Impact Of Asthma On Daily Life

    Asthma is often under-diagnosed and under-treated, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

    People with under-treated asthma can suffer sleep disturbance, tiredness during the day, and poor concentration. Asthma sufferers and their families may miss school and work, with financial impact on the family and wider community. If symptoms are severe, people with asthma may need to receive emergency health care and they may be admitted to hospital for treatment and monitoring. In the most severe cases, asthma can lead to death.

    Read Also: Is Asthma A Autoimmune Disease

    Does That Mean Asthma Is An Autoimmune Disorder

    No! An autoimmune disorder occurs when your immune system cannot tell the difference between pathogens and your own healthy tissue. When this happens, your immune system attacks healthy cells as though they were foreign invaders. This causes these cells to become inflamed and damaged. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, type-1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and Addisons disease. However, there is one subgroup of asthma affected here, and its called Churg-Strauss Syndrome. But, overall, asthma is not an autoimmune disorder.

    What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma


    People with asthma usually have obvious symptoms. These signs and symptoms resemble many respiratory infections:

    • Chest tightness, pain or pressure.
    • Coughing .

    With asthma, you may not have all of these symptoms with every flare. You can have different symptoms and signs at different times with chronic asthma. Also, symptoms can change between asthma attacks.

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    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.

    Evaluating An Asthma Attack

    Because people who are having a severe asthma attack commonly have low blood oxygen levels, doctors may check the level of oxygen by using a sensing monitor on a finger or ear . In severe attacks, doctors also need to measure levels of carbon dioxide in the blood Arterial Blood Gas Analysis and Pulse Oximetry Both arterial blood gas testing and pulse oximetry measure the amount of oxygen in the blood, which helps determine how well the lungs are functioning. Arterial blood gas tests are invasive… read more , and this test typically requires obtaining a sample of blood from an artery or, occasionally, a vein. However, carbon dioxide levels can sometimes be monitored in the person’s breath using a sensor placed in front of the nose or mouth.

    Doctors may also check lung function, usually with a spirometer or with a peak flow meter. Usually, a chest x-ray is needed only when asthma attacks are severe, in order to rule out other serious conditions .

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    What Body Systems Are Affected By Asthma

    Fact Checked

    Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your ability to breathe. Wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing are common asthma symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an asthma attack or episode can affect your respiratory system, immune system and nervous system .

    If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

    Research For Your Health

    How an asthma attack occurs

    The NHLBI is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health the Nations biomedical agency that makes important scientific discovery to improve health and save lives. We are committed to advancing science and translating discoveries into clinical practice to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders, including asthma. Learn about the current and future NHLBI efforts to improve health through research and scientific discovery.

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    What Happens During An Asthma Flare

    During a flare-up, you might have:

    • trouble breathing
    • a whistling sound when you breathe
    • a cough

    Flare-ups happen when the airways in the lungs get more irritated and swollen than usual. Your lungs might make a sticky mucus, which clogs the airways. The muscles around the airways will also tighten up, making them really narrow. This clogging and narrowing make it tough to pull air in and push air out.

    Some flare-ups are mild, but others are serious. If the flare-up is severe, a person might:

    • struggle to breathe or have fast breathing even when sitting still
    • not be able to speak more than a few words at a time without pausing
    • have retractions while breathing in

    Flare-ups can happen suddenly. They also can build up over time, especially if you haven’t been taking your asthma medicine.

    What To Do After An Asthma Attack

    During an asthma attack or exacerbation, your airways narrow, making it harder to breathe and get enough oxygen to your lungs. You may also have symptoms like chest pain, coughing, and wheezing. Your air passages can become so inflamed that you need urgent care at a hospital.

    An asthma attack can be a frightening experience. It can take days or even weeks to fully recover.

    If youve ever had an attack, the thought of having another one can be frightening. Taking some time for yourself after an asthma attack can help you recover and possibly lower your risk of having another one.

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    The Process Involved In The Asthma Immune Response

    I want to explain that the biological processes involved in the asthma immune response vary depending on what asthma subgroup you have. So, for our case, we are using an allergic asthmatic. Our asthmatic was exposed to dust mites, was sensitized, and experienced the early phase of an asthma attack. Now, our asthmatic enters the late phase.

    The Late Phase Asthma Attack

    What happens during an #asthma attack? Asthma ( asma / asma attack ...

    About 60% of asthmatics who experience the early phase will experience this late phase. This is your bodys natural response when you are constantly exposed to an asthma trigger like dust mites, or a high dose of them.

    During the early phase, mediators of inflammation are released. Some immediately cause inflammation. This is what causes your early phase asthma attack. The rest travel through your bloodstream and recruit reinforcements.

    The reinforcements start arriving 4-8 hours after initial exposure to an antigen . When they arrive, the late phase asthma attack begins. These reinforcements cause persistent airway inflammation. This makes airways increasingly hypersensitive to asthma triggers. This response prolongs the asthma attack. It also increases the risk for future asthma attacks. It may last 12-24 hours . It may last even longer.1,2

    Here is what happens. These are the reinforcements that are now inside your airways. They are meant to kill pathogens. Although in our case, they are abnormally recruited to kill harmless dust mites.

    Interleukin 5 . It’s a cytokine released by Th2 cells during the early phase asthma attack. Its role is to travel through your bloodstream and recruit eosinophils.

    When eosinophils come into contact with airway cells they degranulate. This means they release their contents. These contents include a variety of chemicals. I won’t list any of them here. I will save that for a future post.

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