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What Is An Acute Asthma Attack

Know The 4 Steps Of Asthma First Aid

Chest Retractions in a Severe Asthma Attack

Its important for everyone in the community to know the 4 steps of asthma first aid.

One of the most common reliever medications in Australia is salbutamol, often known as your blue puffer. These are available over the counter from a chemist.

If you are not sure if someone is having an asthma attack, you can still use blue reliever medication because it is unlikely to cause harm.Call triple zero immediately if:

  • the person is not breathing
  • their asthma suddenly becomes worse or is not improving
  • the person is having an asthma attack and theres no reliever medication available
  • the person is unsure if it is asthma
  • the person is known to have anaphylaxis. If this is the case, ALWAYS GIVE ADRENALINE AUTOINJECTOR FIRST, and then reliever, even if there are no skin symptoms.

Risk Factors For Asthma Exacerbations

Many factors have been studied regarding their correlation with acute severe asthma and asthma related death . In adults, asthma exacerbations are more often in females . This is difficult to be explained since female asthmatics have lower levels of total serum IgE and the incidence of atopy is actually lower in comparison to males . A possible explanation could have to do with the connection between asthma worsening and the menses, which is a recognized contributing factor of asthma worsening . Furthermore, pregnancy in asthmatic women is a condition that requires special considerations, considering the effect of the disease, as well as the medication on the mother and the fetus. Pregnancy is not always correlated with worse asthma control, although there seems to be a correlation between asthma severity and morbidities and exacerbations during pregnancy . There has been reported a cluster of obese females with late-onset corticosteroid asthma with frequent exacerbations although they preserve a relatively good baseline lung function .

What Is Acute Asthma

Asthma itself is a chronic condition, so its important to avoid triggers that might bring on an asthma attack. These include allergens and untreated infections.

If you have asthma, you must be careful to follow your treatment plan. If your asthma is well controlled, you can usually live a relatively normal life. However, a trigger exposure can cause an acute asthma flare,¹ which is otherwise known as an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, the bronchial passages that allow air in and out of the lungs swell up and become narrow.

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Can Allergies Trigger Asthma

Allergies and asthma are closely related conditions. An allergic reaction can trigger an asthma attack for people with asthma, causing allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma. This makes it crucial for people with asthma to be aware of allergens and how they can spur asthma attacks.

Here, well discuss the link between allergies and asthma and offer tips for managing both conditions.

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Will My Wheezing Or Coughing Be Worse

Asthma Attack in Children: Causes, Early Warning Signs, and Treatment ...

Not necessarily. You might be surprised to learn that you may not have more of these than usual during a severe asthma attack. So donât judge how bad your asthma attack is based on how much you wheeze or cough.

In fact, very severe asthma attacks may affect your airways so much that you donât get enough air in and out of your lungs to make a wheezing sound or cough.

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Ethics Approval And Consent To Participate

Ethical clearance was obtained from Mekelle University College of health sciences institutional review board . Official supportive letters were obtained from Regional Health Bureau and central zone health office. Respondents were informed about the purpose of the study and the interview was conducted after receiving the written consent from participants. The right of participants to withdraw from the study at any time, without any precondition were secured and participants were informed. Confidentiality of the data/information was secured and was not used for other purposes. No personal identifiers was used on the questionnaire. To maintain confidentiality, data collector was recruited from the study unit.

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.

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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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:

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

Your airways become swollen during an acute exacerbation. Your muscles contract and your bronchial tubes narrow. Breathing normally becomes more and more difficult.

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.

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How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Severe Asthma Attack

The amount of time required to recover from a severe asthma attack is highly variable among people. Studies show that people who have other underlying health conditions tend to take longer to recover. One study suggests an average recovery time of 1.7 weeks.

Some individuals require supplemental oxygen after a severe asthma attack. Blood oxygen levels can be measured using a saturation monitor, and if your levels are below 90% , you will need extra oxygen.

In addition to supplemental oxygen, a wide variety of medications may be used to decrease inflammation in the bronchioles and open the airways. These include inhaled or oral corticosteroids, such as Qvar , Flovent HFA , EntocortEC , and Asmanex .

How Do I Know If My Cough Is Heart Related

Coughs can be a sign of many different conditions, including lung diseases, heart disease, or thyroid issues. A dry cough can also signal heart disease or cardiac asthma. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as possible. A doctor can give you more information about the cause of your cough.

Some common symptoms of heart failure are chest pain and shortness of breath. The chest pain may be sudden and severe, and it is important to get medical attention immediately. Symptoms can be triggered by exercise, food, pollen, and dust. A cough that persists for more than one week may indicate that your heart is failing.

One of the most serious causes of chest pain is pulmonary embolism. This condition occurs when a blood clot in the leg blocks the flow of blood to the lungs. People with this condition typically experience shortness of breath, breathing difficulty, and bloody cough.

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Prevention And Risk Reduction

GINA recommends that all adults and adolescents with asthma should receive ICS-containing controller treatment, either as-needed or daily, in order to reduce their risk of serious exacerbations and to control symptoms, . Asthma treatment should be optimized in patients continuing having poor symptom control and/or exacerbations, even though Step 4 and Step 5 treatments and contributing factors should be assessed, in order to treat modifiable risk factors that compromise disease stability , and medications such as beta-blockers and NSAIDs) . It is imperative to optimize the inhaler technique and adherence to treatment, as well as overuse of SABAs, and medication side effects. Furthermore, comorbidities should be assessed including obesity, GERD, chronic rhinosinusitis, obstructive sleep apnea, anxiety, depression, and social difficulties. Non-pharmacological interventions should also be recommended where indicated.

Personalized management for adults and adolescents to control symptoms and minimize future risk .

Whats The Best Body Position For An Asthma Attack

Asthma Causes Of

Generally speaking, sitting up straight is the best position for an asthma attack. This is because sitting up allows air to more effectively enter your lungs while bending over or lying down may constrict your breathing.

A 2017 study investigated lung function in a small group of 20 people with asthma. Lung function was found to be highest when participants were in the standing position, followed by the sitting position. Function was lowest when participants were lying down.

Another investigated the effect of body positioning on the lung function of healthy people and those with certain health conditions. In people with lung diseases like asthma, lung function was found to be higher in more erect positions.

Also Check: How To Control Your Asthma Naturally

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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.

When To Call Your Doctor

You should seek care right away if you or your child has symptoms and:

  • Has been hospitalized for asthma in the past year or had life-threatening asthma attacks in the past
  • Recently needed oral corticosteroids taken by mouth to treat asthma
  • Has not been using inhaled corticosteroids
  • Uses more than one canister of inhaled short-acting beta2-agonist medicine each month
  • Has a mental health condition or an alcohol or drug use disorder
  • Does not closely follow the asthma action plan
  • Has a food allergy

For young children with asthma, if they:

  • Seem drowsy, confused, or troubled
  • Have a blue tint to the skin and lips
  • Have a fast heartbeat

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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.

Signs And Symptoms Of Flare Up

How to Treat an Asthma Attack – First Aid Training – St John Ambulance
Mild to Moderate


What can you do to prevent this happening again?

If you have had an asthma attack or ended up in a hospital or an emergency department, it means that your asthma is not under your control.

When youve had an asthma flare-up you need to see your doctor within 3 days to review your asthma and update your Asthma Action Plan to discuss:

  • What is your current level of asthma control how do we improve it?
  • How well are your asthma medicines working can we improve their use?
  • What triggered your asthma attack can you avoid the trigger, or how to respond better to the trigger next time to avoid an asthma attack?
  • Are there any other factors that might be affecting your asthma control how do we reduce their impact on your asthma?

For more support about managing asthma, talk to us. 1800 ASTHMA is a no-charge service open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. You can get in touch with us through phone, or by booking in a call-back.

To help get back on track after your visit to the emergency department or hospital after an asthma attack visit our after hospital page.

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What Other Tools Can I Use For Monitoring Asthma Control

Peak Flow Meter

Sometimes doctors recommend a peak flow meter a handheld device that measures how well air moves out of your lungs. A peak flow meter, when used every day, can spot reduced airflow before you notice the signs and symptoms of an asthma episode.

Peak flow meter readings can help you monitor your asthma control. But they are just one tool. Your peak flow meter reading is not the only indicator of asthma control. Always follow your Asthma Action Plan.

Pulse Oximeter

Doctors use pulse oximeters to measure how much oxygen your blood is carrying. Some people with asthma may experience a drop in their oxygen levels in their blood.

Pulse oximeters you can buy online and use at home are not as accurate as medical grade devices. Monitoring your blood oxygen levels with pulse oximeters is not a recommended part of home management of asthma.

Lung Function Tests

Your allergist or pulmonologist may use different lung function tests to assess your asthma control. Learn more about the tests used to diagnose and monitor asthma.

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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What Types Of Asthma Are There

Asthma is broken down into types based on the cause and the severity of symptoms. Healthcare providers identify asthma as:

  • Intermittent: This type of asthma comes and goes so you can feel normal in between asthma flares.
  • Persistent: Persistent asthma means you have symptoms much of the time. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. Healthcare providers base asthma severity on how often you have symptoms. They also consider how well you can do things during an attack.

Asthma has multiple causes:

  • Allergic: Some peoples allergies can cause an asthma attack. Allergens include things like molds, pollens and pet dander.
  • Non-allergic: Outside factors can cause asthma to flare up. Exercise, stress, illness and weather may cause a flare.

Asthma can also be:

  • Adult-onset: This type of asthma starts after the age of 18.
  • Pediatric: Also called childhood asthma, this type of asthma often begins before the age of 5, and can occur in infants and toddlers. Children may outgrow asthma. You should make sure that you discuss it with your provider before you decide whether your child needs to have an inhaler available in case they have an asthma attack. Your childs healthcare provider can help you understand the risks.

In addition, there are these types of asthma:

When To Visit A Doctor

Common Triggers and Treatments For Severe Asthma

Any unexplained or severe difficulty in breathing could be a potentially serious issue. Weve discussed a number of conditions that can result in such difficulties, and consulting with a doctor as soon as possible after it happens will help determine the underlying cause.

If youve already been diagnosed with asthma and have an attack that does not improve with your rescue inhaler, see a doctor immediately. If you notice your symptoms worsening, make an appointment as soon as possible.

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