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What Is An Asthma Flare Up

Managing Your Asthma Flare

Recognizing Signs of an Asthma Flare Up

Am Fam Physician. 1998 Jul 1 58:109-113.

See related article on asthma.

To keep your asthma under control, you need to know what to do when you have a flare-up of symptoms . First, you need to know the symptoms that tell you your asthma is getting worse . Second, you need to know how to treat your asthma when it gets worse. Early treatment of flare-ups works the best and will help get your asthma under control quickly.

What Are Common Asthma Attack Triggers

An asthma attack happens when someone comes in contact with substances that irritate them. Healthcare providers call these substances triggers. Knowing what triggers your asthma makes it easier to avoid asthma attacks.

For some people, a trigger can bring on an attack right away. Sometimes, an attack may start hours or days later.

Triggers can be different for each person. But some common triggers include:

  • Air pollution: Many things outside can cause an asthma attack. Air pollution includes factory emissions, car exhaust, wildfire smoke and more.
  • Dust mites: You cant see these bugs, but they are in many homes. If you have a dust mite allergy, they can cause an asthma attack.
  • Exercise: For some people, exercising can cause an attack.
  • Mold: Damp places can spawn mold. It can cause problems for people with asthma. You dont even have to be allergic to mold to have an attack.
  • Pests: Cockroaches, mice and other household pests can cause asthma attacks.
  • Pets: Your pets can cause asthma attacks. If youre allergic to pet dander , breathing in the dander can irritate your airways.
  • Tobacco smoke: If you or someone in your home smokes, you have a higher risk of developing asthma. The best solution is to quit smoking.
  • Strong chemicals or smells.

With asthma, you may not have all of these symptoms. You may have different signs at different times. And symptoms can change between asthma attacks.

What’s An Asthma Flare

An asthma flare-up is when asthma symptoms get worse, making someone wheeze, cough, or be short of breath. An asthma flare-up can happen even when asthma is controlled.

Asthma flare-ups are also called asthma attacks or exacerbations.

Triggers like allergies, respiratory infections , cigarette smoke, exercise, or even cold air can cause a flare-up and make asthma symptoms worse.

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Common Causes Of Asthma Flare Up

Asthma flare-ups can occur for any number of reasons. If youre allergic to dust, pollen, mites, or even mold, these can make your existing asthma symptoms worse than they already are. Sometimes, its not even the common culprits that trigger the symptoms. Exercise, cold air, perfume, changes in the weather, and smoke from tobacco or wood can cause your symptoms to flare up.

Some people have reported getting triggered by a sinus infection, cold, flu, and even gastroesophageal reflux a condition where stomach acid goes up the food pipe into the back of the throat.

The best thing to do would be to pay close attention to what triggers your flare-ups and how they affect you. It is also a good idea for your doctor to test you for a wide range of allergens to determine if theres something you might be allergic to. That way, you can steer clear of it.

Whats An Asthma Attack

Asthma Flare Up Duration

When you breathe normally, muscles around your airways are relaxed, letting air move easily. During an asthma attack, three things can happen:

  • Bronchospasm: The muscles around the airways constrict . When they tighten, it makes the airways narrow. Air cannot flow freely through constricted airways.
  • Inflammation: The airway linings become swollen. Swollen airways dont let as much air in or out of the lungs.
  • Mucus production: During the attack, your body creates more mucus. This thick mucus clogs airways.

Also Check: Can Asthma Symptoms Last For Weeks

Know The Four Steps Of Asthma First Aid

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

  • Sit the person upright.
  • Give four puffs of blue reliever puffer. Make sure you shake the puffer, put one puff into a spacer at a time and get the person to take four breaths of each puff through the spacer. Remember: shake, one puff, four breaths. If you dont have a spacer, simply give the person four puffs of their reliever directly in to their mouth. Repeat this until the person has taken four puffs.
  • Wait four minutes. If there is no improvement, give four more separate puffs as in step 2. Remember: shake, one puff, four breaths.
  • If there is still no improvement, call triple zero for an ambulance. Tell the operator that someone is having an asthma emergency. Keep giving the person four separate puffs of reliever medication, taking four breaths for each puff, every four minutes until the ambulance arrives.
  • 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.

    • the person is not breathing
    • their asthma suddenly becomes worse
    • the person is having an asthma attack and theres no blue reliever medication available.

    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:

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    Wet And Windy Weather Conditions:

    Wet and windy weather can often cause problems for asthma sufferers.

    Wet weather encourages mould growth and if it is also windy, this mould is blown through the air. If a person with asthma breathes in airborne mould, it will often triggers their asthma symptoms.

    If you know wind and rain triggers your asthma, make sure to always keep an eye on the weather forecast. Try to stay inside during particularly bad days with the windows closed and keep your reliever inhaler close at all times.

    Recommended Reading: Causes Of Asthma Exacerbation

    Eczema And Food Sensitivity

    Asthma flare-up season is here!

    There are a few key things that may cause an immune imbalance. The first is food sensitivity. Most of the medical community thinks food isnt related to eczema, but I find thats not true clinically. About 30 percent of eczema cases are connected to diet in some way. Wheat and dairy are the most common culprits, but nuts, soy, dairy and eggs are also common food sensitivities. To find out if food might be a trigger for you, I would suggest an elimination diet, where you cut out foods that are commonly associated with sensitivies for three weeks and then reintroduce them one by one, leaving at least 72 hours between each one to watch out for signs of a reaction.

    Next, since the microflora in the gut is intricately tied to the immune system, I would recommend supplementing with probiotics and taking certain herbal medicines, which have antifungal or antibacterial properties to help balance the organisms in the digestive tract. You can also support your bodys natural elimination process with natural remedies, such as herbs for the liver, cranberries for the kidneys and fibre-filled chia or flaxseed for regular bowel movements. We would also talk about your sugar intake because sugar feeds immune-disrupting organisms in the gut.

    Finally, we would discuss stress, which impacts the immune system, and I would work with you to develop a stress-management plan. For some people, exercise works best for others, it might be counselling, prayer or practicingyoga.

    Also Check: What Happens If You Smoke Weed With Asthma

    There Are 4 Stages To Asthma I Have Stage 2 What Do You Have

    Asthma can suck, actually, it definitely does suck. Its not like we chose to have it, it was thrust upon us. There are ways to reduce the number of asthma attacks you have and one of those ways is to know what stage of Asthma you have. This will help you determine how often you should actually be showing symptoms of Asthma and that can help you live your life. Below are the 4 stages of Asthma. Its important to note that not everyone will show the same symptoms or fall neatly onto this graph.

    Stage 1: Mild Intermittent Asthma No more than 2 Symptoms per week, no problems in between attacks which only last a few hours to at most a few days, less than 2 nighttime episodes per month

    Stage 2: Mild Persistent Asthma Symptoms happen at least 2 a week but not more than once a day. Your activity levels are affected by flare ups. Multiple nighttime symptoms per month

    Stage 3: Moderate Persistent Asthma There are symptoms every day and because of that you have to use rescue medication every day as well. Flare ups happen at least twice a week or more. Nighttime symptoms occur more than once per week.

    Stage 4: Severe Persistent Asthma You cant do that much physical activity and always have to carry around and often use a rescue device. There are frequent flare ups along with nighttime symptoms. Your life is completely focused on Asthma and how to avoid an attack.


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    How Can We Help Prevent Asthma Flare

    To help prevent asthma flare-ups:

    • Make sure your child always has quick-relief medicine and the spacer available.
    • Teach your child how to avoid asthma triggers.
    • Make sure your child takes the long-term control medicine as the doctor directed. Even when your child feels well, it’s important not to skip it.
    • Make sure your child gets a yearly flu vaccine, and washes his or her hands well and often to avoiding germs that lead to colds and other illnesses.
    • Work with the doctor on an effective asthma action plan.

    Reviewed by: Aledie Amariah Navas Nazario, MD

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    Can I Prevent Asthma Flare

    You have the power to prevent flare-ups, at least some of the time. Heres what you can do:

    • Always have your inhaler with you.
    • Stay away from triggers that you know may cause flare-ups. Try to avoid being around smokers รข and dont smoke yourself.
    • If you use a long-term control medicine, follow your doctors instructions for taking it every day. Dont skip it or take less because you feel OK.
    • Work with your parents and doctor to follow your asthma action plan.

    Controlling Asthma With Medication

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    While these tips can help you reduce your asthma symptoms as the weather changes, medication is also recommended for those who have been diagnosed. Talk to your doctor about what prescriptions they recommend for you.

    Long-term controller medication is taken every day to help keep your symptoms under control. These drugs may include inhalers, long-acting beta-agonists, or leukotriene modifiers. Your doctor can help determine which option is best for you.

    In addition to long-term controller medication, you should also have an inhaled corticosteroid. These drugs can help you get quick relief, and you should only use them when you really need them.

    Drugs like Omnaris can help reduce inflammation of the nasal passages and help with seasonal allergies. This prescription nasal spray helps with sneezing, hay fever, and an itchy or runny nose.

    Take your quick-relief medication before exercising in the cold or before you know you may have a flare-up. A short-acting bronchodilator can help you breathe easier.

    Read Also: What Happens If You Smoke Weed With Asthma

    Early Warning Signs Include:

    In some cases, more severe signs or symptoms may appear in your child including:

    • Trouble breathing even when sitting still
    • Difficulty speaking without pausing
    • Feeling tired or drowsy
    • Blueness around the lips
    • The areas below the ribs, between the ribs, and in the neck sink in with each attempt to inhale

    Homeopathic Remedies For Asthma Attack

    1. Arsenicum album : A person who feels really worn-out and restless needs this medication, even more so if he/she feels difficulty in breathing, especially while lying down. The problem might be accompanied by frothy white fluid during coughing.

    2. Carbo vegetabilis : When a person feels extremely weak or has a feeling of getting faint, this medication is used. Other symptoms may include burping, frequent passing of gas, and an upset stomach.

    3. Chamomilla : When a person becomes overexcited or very angry, experiences dry cough with irritation, this medication is helpful. The person also becomes hypersensitive along with the above symptoms.

    4. Ipecacuanha : When coughing eventually leads to vomiting, this homeopathic medication is suggested. Other symptoms include accumulation of mucus in the air passages and difficulty in coughing out.

    5. Natrum sulphuricum : When a person feels so weak that he/she holds his/her chest while coughing, this medication is recommended. Conditions become worse in the early morning, and the person finds it difficult to breathe while getting up from bed.

    Other useful homeopathic medications include Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, and Spogia tosta.

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    Treating And Managing Flare

    Talk to your doctor about how to handle flare-ups, and let them know if they happen a lot. They may need to change your treatment plan.

    Some flare-ups get better after you rest and take over-the-counter pain meds for a couple of days. Call your doctor if they last longer than that, or if your symptoms are intense.

    Medication changes. You might need to adjust your medication temporarily, or add a new one. Medicines that can help with flares include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , either prescription or over-the-counter. You may take them as a pill or put them on your skin. Acetaminophen helps some people. Your doctor may also inject steroids into your joints.

    Rest. One of the best ways to deal with a flare is to take it easy. Take a sick day if you need to. Ask family members to help out with chores. But try not to stop moving completely. Do a few gentle stretches to keep yourself from getting stiff.

    Hot and cold therapies. Moist heat around your joints boosts blood flow and relaxes muscles. A warm paraffin wax dip may make your hands or feet feel better. A special machine heats the wax, which is the same type used in candles.

    If too much exercise causes flare-ups for you, use an ice pack right after your workout to ease pain. A cold compress may help at other times, too. Cold constricts your blood vessels, which decreases blood flow. That leads to less pain.

    Limit the use of either of these methods to two to four times a day, for no more than 15 minutes at a time.

    Symptoms Of An Asthma Attack

    All about asthma attack, asthma flareup and prevention

    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.

    Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Asthma Without Inhaler

    You Wake Up Coughing And Wheezing During The Night

    If youre ever jolted awake in the middle of the night by a fit of coughing or wheezing, you may need to modify your severe-asthma management plan.

    Properly managed asthma shouldnt wake you up from sleep more than one or two nights a month. If youre losing sleep due to your symptoms more than this, it may be time to discuss treatment modifications with your doctor.

    Your peak flow readings are a measurement of how well your lungs are functioning at their best. This measurement is usually tested at home with a handheld device called a peak flow meter.

    If your peak flow levels drop below 80 percent of your personal best, thats a sign that your severe asthma is poorly managed. Another sign that your asthma is getting worse is if your peak flow reading varies greatly from day to day. If you notice low or inconsistent numbers, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

    Cold Air Can Trigger Asthma Attacks

    Asthma sufferers are sensitive to their environment and the air they breathe. Triggers can cause your bronchial passageways to spasm and close off. When this happens, you can feel short of breath and start wheezing or coughing. Its a swelling response in your airways that creates an asthma attack.

    Cold air can cause your airways to seize up, triggering an asthma attack. Winter air can also be moist, harboring mold spores and dust mites. When you breathe damp, cold air, you put your lungs at risk for inhaling particles that cause flare-ups and airway swelling.

    Cold and flu viruses are prevalent in winter, and cold air makes them spread easily. If you have asthma and you get sick, the mucus your body develops can clog your airways. While you naturally have a thin layer of mucus in your airways, getting sick can create more mucus that fills your narrow breathing passages.

    Also Check: Can Allergies Cause Asthma Attacks

    Can Persistent Cough Be A Symptom Of Covid

    A persistent cough can be a symptom of covid-19 along with loss of smell, fever and body pain. Cough can affect more than 46% of adults with covid-19 and is less common in children. The cough is usually dry. However, if you develop an underlying lung condition, you may cough mucus or phlegm. If you have already Tested Positive Covid-19 and is coughing green or yellow phlegm, it may be a sign of secondary bacterial infection in your lungs that requires proper treatment.

    If you cough more than normal and without apparent explanation, better get tested for covid-19, self-isolate yourself and follow covid-19 protocol.


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