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What To Do When Having An Asthma Attack

Everyday Treatment For Asthma In Children

The main aims of day-to-day asthma treatment are to: 

  • keep symptoms under control 
  • keep lungs as healthy as possible 
  • stop asthma from interfering with school or play 
  • help your child enjoy a full and active life. 

Your doctor will help you to develop a plan to manage your childs asthma which will include an asthma action plan , and will prescribe the correct medication to help you do so. 

Cold Weather And Asthma

Cold weather is a common trigger for asthma symptoms. The following to help you control your symptoms in the cold:

  • carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times and keep taking your regular preventer inhaler as prescribed
  • if you need to use your inhaler more than usual, speak to your doctor about reviewing your treatment
  • keep warm and dry wear gloves, a scarf and a hat, and carry an umbrella
  • wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth this will help warm up the air before you breathe it
  • try breathing in through your nose instead of your mouth your nose warms the air as you breathe

Asthma Society of Ireland has more about weather and asthma.

How To Tell You Have Asthma

In this section: Diagnosis and Lung Testing | How To Tell You Have Asthma | Your Healthcare Team

Asthma is a complex disease to diagnose, and only a healthcare professional is able to make a proper .

If you are concerned that you may have asthma, contact your healthcare provider. In order to confirm an asthma diagnosis, your healthcare provider will take into account your medical and family history, allergies, and conduct lung function testing such as spirometry.

Common Asthma Attack Triggers

An asthma trigger is an irritant that causes the airways to become inflamed and constrict. Constriction of airways marks the start of an asthma attack and can cause other symptoms like wheezing. 

There isnt one single trigger of asthma. What triggers an asthma attack for one person might not be the same for another. Youll know what causes an asthma attack for you if youre exposed to an irritant and have shortness of breath or start wheezing. The most common triggers are:     

  • Allergies
  • Medications such as beta-blockers
  • What To Do If You Have Covid

    Asthma UK on Twitter: "Everyone needs to know what to do ...

    If you have any of these symptoms or if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, contact your doctor right away and avoid contact with others unless absolutely necessary. Call before you go to your doctors office and ask for instructions. Your doctor may have a special process for you to follow so you dont risk spreading it to other patients and staff. They may have you get tested for COVID-19 and will give you further instruction.

    If you have these severe symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away:

    • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
    • Pain or pressure in the chest that doesnt go away
    • Newly confused or cant wake up
    • Bluish tint on lips, face or fingernails

    If you have to leave home for treatment, wear a face mask to prevent spreading the virus. Isolate yourself from people you live with and wear a face mask around them even at home. Clean and sanitize surfaces that are touched often like doorknobs, light switches and cell phones.

    When To Call For Emergency Assistance

    Your coughing and wheezing are severe. You may have to bend slightly forward while sitting in order to get air. Your ribs and chest heave in and out with every breath. Speaking may be limited to phrases, or you may not be able to speak. Your lips and nailbeds are blue or grey. You may feel very frightened.

    If you have a nebulizer for your emergency breathing treatment administration, use it continuously until help arrives. If you use an emergency inhaler, immediately take six puffs of the medication. Take 40 milligrams of prednisone.

    How To Prevent An Asthma Attack

    Preventing an asthma attack is easier to do if you know what triggers your asthma.

    Avoidance of the triggers can help prevent an asthma attack in many cases, says David Stempel, MD, Senior VP of Clinical and Medical Affairs at Propeller Health. Asthma attacks can be further mitigated by taking preventative medications such as inhaled corticosteroids and in some cases using a short-acting bronchodilator, like albuterol, 15 minutes prior to exposure to a trigger like exercise.

    How Do You Know If You Are Having An Asthma Attack

    An asthma attack happens when the body is exposed to a triggerlike pollen or smokethat causes the airways to become inflamed and swollen.

    Asthma attacks are uncomfortable to experience and can be frightening, especially for children. If you or someone you know is having any of the following symptoms, they may be having an asthma attack:

    • Difficulty breathing 
    • Chest tightness or pain 
    • Coughing or wheezing

    An asthma attack may go away after a few minutes with proper treatment, but symptoms can last longer and become life-threatening if untreated. Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you know is having a severe asthma attack with one or more of the following symptoms:

    • A feeling of panic about the asthma attack
    • Pale and sweaty face
    • Lips or fingernails that are turning blue
    • No improvement in symptoms after using an inhaler

    Am I Having An Asthma Attack How To Tell And What To Do About It

    medical review board.

    • You may be having an asthma attack if you have extreme shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in your chest.
    • Asthma attacks may be caused by allergen triggers like mold or dust, air irritants like smoke, illnesses like the flu, or vigorous exercise. 
    • You should take an inhaler if you are having an asthma attack, but if you don’t have an inhaler and can’t breathe, call 911.
    • This article was medically reviewed by Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist and laryngologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

    One in 13 Americans have asthma, a condition that causes your airways to swell and makes it harder for you to breathe. When you have an asthma attack, symptoms like coughing or having trouble breathing can become severe and may even be deadly if you are not properly treated. Here’s how to know if you are having an asthma attack and how to treat your symptoms.

    What Types Of Asthma Are There

    Healthcare providers identify asthma as intermittent or persistent . Persistent asthma can be mild, moderate or severe. Healthcare providers base asthma severity on how often you have attacks. They also consider how well you can do things during an attack.

    Asthma can be:

    • Allergic: Some peoples can cause an asthma attack. Molds, pollens and other allergens can cause an attack.
    • Non-allergic: Outside factors can cause asthma to flare up. Exercise, stress, illness and weather may cause a flare.

    Asthma Symptoms In A Severe Allergic Reaction

    People having a severe allergic reaction can also have asthma-like symptoms. If the person has an anaphylaxis action plan, follow the instructions. If they have known severe allergies and carry an adrenaline autoinjector , use that before using asthma reliever medication.In case of an emergency, call triple zero and ask for an ambulance.

    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.

    How To Help Someone Having An Asthma Attack

    Asthma UK on Twitter: "Do you know what to do if someone ...

    This article was medically reviewed by Daniel Wozniczka, MD, MPH. Dr. Wozniczka is an Internal Medicine Physician in Chicago, with global healthcare experience in Sub Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. He completed his MD at Jagiellonian University in 2014, and also holds an MBA and Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 20,530 times.

    Having an asthma attack can be frightening. It can also be frightening to see someone you know, or even a stranger, have an asthma attack. The person may be panicking, especially if they do not have their inhaler. Fortunately, you can help! Assist someone having an asthma attack by getting the appropriate medical assistance, helping them to remain calm, and using simple techniques to help improve their breathing.

    Signs That You Need To Use Asthma First Aid

    If you are experiencing any of the following signs, start asthma first aid. Do not wait until asthma is severe. 

    Mild to moderate asthma signs :

    • minor difficulty breathing
    • able to talk in full sentences
    • able to walk or move around
    • may have a cough or wheeze.

    Severe asthma signs for an ambulance and commence asthma first aid):

    • obvious difficulty breathing
    • cannot speak a full sentence in one breath
    • tugging of the skin between ribs or at base of neck
    • may have cough or wheeze
    • reliever medication not lasting as long as usual.

    Life-threatening asthma signs for an ambulance and commence asthma first aid):

    • finds it very difficult to breathe
    • unable to speak one to two words per breath
    • confused or exhausted
    • is getting little or no relief from their reliever inhaler
    • may no longer have wheeze or cough.

    In asthma emergencies, follow your Asthma Action Plan.

    What An Asthma Attack Feels Like

    Inhale, exhale, repeat. Breathing is just that simple for most people. But for those with asthma, sudden symptoms focus their full attention on this otherwise intuitive reflex.

    You notice your breathing more feel every breath, says Laurence Jones, a photographer from the United Kingdom who lives with the chronic respiratory disease. Its uncertain, troubling.

    While Jones has had mild, well-managed since childhood, hes experienced a few severe asthma attacks in his life.

    Thats really scary, he says. You breathe in, but the air doesnt fill your lungs, like you are drowning in the open air.

    Being Prepared For An Asthma Emergency

    An asthma attack can range from mild to severe. A severe attack, also called an exacerbation, can be a medical emergency. Having an asthma action plan is the key to recognizing and managing an asthma emergency.

    Work with your doctor to come up with an asthma action plan. This plan shows when you are in the green zone , yellow zone or red zone . Your plan will also list instructions for what to do in each situation.

    Managing An Asthma Attack

    While waiting for assistance, things you can do during an asthma attack if you dont have your medication include:

    Additionally, there are many things that you can do in general to lessen the likelihood and severity of asthma attacks.

    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Exercise regularly
    • Drink plenty of water
    • Take a fish oil supplement
    • Take antihistamines if your trigger is an allergen.
    • Wear protective masks if the pollen count is high or there are harmful fumes in the air.
    • Practice relaxation techniques like yoga breathing and meditation.
    • Use a hot water humidifier

    Move Away From Triggers

    The presence of asthma triggers wont only cause an attack, they can also make your symptoms worse. Be sure to try to get away from things that may be triggering your asthma attack.

    For example, if youre in an area where people are smoking cigarettes, you should move away promptly.

    Its also important to know your triggers. Common triggers include:

    • , such as pet dander, pollen, or certain foods

    You should always be sure to seek immediate emergency medical treatment if you experience any of the following symptoms during an asthma attack:

    • your symptoms continue to get worse even after treatment
    • you cant speak except in short words or phrases
    • youre straining your chest muscles in an effort to breathe
    • your shortness of breath or wheezing is severe, particularly in the early morning or late-night hours
    • you begin to feel drowsy or tired
    • your lips or face appear blue when youre not coughing

    Symptoms that indicate that you could be experiencing an asthma attack include:

    • severe shortness of breath

    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 Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Asthma

    Your healthcare provider will review your medical history, including information about your parents and siblings. Your provider will also ask you about your symptoms. Your provider will need to know any history of allergies, and other lung diseases.

    Your healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray, blood test or skin test. Your provider may order . This test measures airflow through your lungs.

    How Can You Tell If You Have Asthma

    If your child has an asthma attack

    It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma.

    During a checkup, a doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will also ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will then ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. He or she will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. Finally, the doctor will ask questions about your home and whether you have missed school or work or have trouble doing certain things.

    The doctor may also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working by testing how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath before and after you use asthma medicine.

    Occupational Asthma Is Triggered By An Irritant Youre Exposed To At Work

    If your asthma started when you changed jobs, improves when youre away from your work environment, or is triggered by chemicals that make it difficult to breathe, then you may be suffering from occupational asthma.

    Occupational factors are associated with up to 15 percent of disabling asthma cases in the United States. An estimated 11 million workers in a wide range of industries are exposed to at least one of the numerous agents known to be associated with occupational asthma. 

    More than 250 manufacturing substances have been known to exacerbate occupational asthma, such as:

    • Paints

    What Asthma Treatment Options Are There

    You have options to help manage your asthma. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to control symptoms. These include:

    • Anti-inflammatory medicines: These medicines reduce swelling and mucus production in your airways. They make it easier for air to enter and exit your lungs. Your healthcare provider may prescribe them to take every day to control or prevent your symptoms.
    • Bronchodilators: These medicines relax the muscles around your airways. The relaxed muscles let the airways move air. They also let mucus move more easily through the airways. These medicines relieve your symptoms when they happen.
    • Biologic therapies for asthma when symptoms persist despite being on proper inhaler therapy.

    You can take asthma medicines in several different ways. You may breathe in the medicines using a metered-dose inhaler, nebulizer or other inhaler. Your healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications that you swallow.

    Watch How To Help Someone Who Is Having An Asthma Attack

     

    What is asthma?

    Asthma is a medical condition that affects the airways the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When someone has an asthma attack, these tubes become narrowed, making it difficult to breathe in and out.

     

    How can I tell if someone is having an asthma attack?

    People with asthma should be able to let you know if they are having an attack.

    Someone having an asthma attack will have difficulty breathing and speaking, and may cough and wheeze. They may be very anxious and distressed as they struggle to breathe.In some cases, their lips, earlobes and nail beds may turn greyish-blue because there isnt enough oxygen in their body.

     

    What sort of medication will someone with asthma use?

    Someone who has asthma will normally have an inhaler that their doctor has prescribed. They may also have a spacer, which makes the inhaler more effective.

    If someone is having an asthma attack they should know how to use their inhaler and spacer but they may need your help in finding them.

     

    What does an inhaler look like?

    Inhalers can come in many different sizes and shapes. Inhalers to relieve asthma attacks are usually blue. Inhalers that prevent asthma attacks may be brown or white.

    Back to questions

    How do you use an inhaler?

    If a person has asthma they should know how to use their inhaler, they may need your help getting it for them. They should take it as normal. If that doesnt help they can take one or two puffs every 30 or 60 seconds until theyve had 10 puffs.  

     

     

    Easier Said Than Done Right

    I am finally at an age where I shouldnt have to do these tasks anymore. I have kids that are old enough they can help out some. I also have access to more money now, so some of these jobs can simply be hired out. For instance, I can hire a service to manage my yard. And Im sure theres a kid who will shovel snow. So, those tasks will be pretty easy to .

    Other tasks might not be so easy to avoid. For instance, who am I going to get to through all those boxes of stuff. Most of that stuff is probably junk and can just be tossed out. But, amid that junk might be a treasure. Still, is the reward here worth the risk? Probably not.

    If You Suspect You Might Have Asthma Definitely Head To The Doctor

    Your doctor will probably give you a physical exam first to examine the general state of your health. After that, theyll likely put you through some lung function tests, such as a spirometry, which checks how much air you can exhale after taking a deep breath as well as how fast you can expel air, according to the Mayo Clinic. Or they may do a peak flow test, which measures how hard you can breathe out. If you cant exhale enough air or breathe out quickly, it may be a sign your lungs arent working well, which could point to asthma, Dr. Benzaquen says.

    There are other exams they can use, too, like exposing you to methacholine, a known asthma trigger, to see if your airways narrow, or allergy testing, since allergies and asthma are so often connected.

    If you are diagnosed with asthma, itll be within one of four categories, according to the Mayo Clinic. Mild intermittent asthma means you have minimal asthma symptoms for up to two days a week and up to two nights a month, while mild persistent asthma means youre experiencing symptoms more frequently than twice a week, but not more than once on any given day. Moderate persistent asthma ups the ante: Youre dealing with symptoms once a day and more than one night a week. Finally, severe persistent asthma involves constant symptoms most days and frequently at night too.

    Causes Of An Asthma Attack

    An asthma attack happens when your bronchial tubes, or air passages, become inflamed or blocked. The muscles around these tubes constrict and narrow, making it hard to breathe. 

    The common causes of an asthma attack are:

    • Allergen triggers, such as mold, pets or dust mites
    • Air irritants, like smoke, perfume, or chemical smells
    • Illnesses like the flu or a respiratory infection
    • Vigorous exercise

    There are other medical issues that can be confused for an asthma attack for example, “it can be very difficult to distinguish an asthma attack from an allergic reaction,” Madsen says.

    In some cases, if you have asthma, having an allergic reaction can actually trigger an asthma attack, Madsen says. This can happen if you breathe in an allergen in the air like pollen or dust.

    People who suffer from anxiety attacks may also experience shortness of breath and tightness in their chests, but there are differences in symptoms. Wheezing is a telltale sign of an asthma attack that may not show up in other conditions, Madsen says.

    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.

    But How Do You Know If Your Condition Is Asthma

    If your child has an asthma attack

    First of all, it pays to know what asthma is. Asthma is simply a pulmonary disease characterized by an inflammation of the airways leading to lungs. When these airways swell and muscles around them tighten, the amount of air that passes through the airways is reduced. Thus, the shortness of breath or asthma attack. This happens especially when thick mucus fill the airways.

    One way to distinguish asthma from common allergies is that allergies occur in the upper respiratory system. This is usually the case for nasal congestion, nasal drip and sinus pains resulting in chronic coughing. Meanwhile, asthma occurs when airways that carry air to and from the lungs are inflamed.

    However, the most efficient way to diagnose asthma is through several breathing tests done by physicians. Medical examinations can be a combination of any of the following:

    Know that asthma manifests differently to different people. While others may exhibit chronic wheezing, some may be experiencing chest tightness and shortness of breath. To be able to manage asthma, its best to consult your physician, be properly diagnosed, and get the necessary prescriptions.

    Are There More Advanced Treatments For Severe Uncontrolled Asthma Symptoms

    Advanced asthma treatments include medicines called , which are made from natural substances. These drugs help by reducing your bodys reaction to asthma triggers and controlling inflammation.

    If your asthma is not controlled with steroids or other methods, bronchial thermoplasty may be an option. Doctors use an electrode to heat the inside of your airways. This procedure helps relax the airways to help you breathe easier.

    Learn more about biologics, bronchial thermoplasty and other asthma treatment options >

    When in doubt, its always best to ask for help. When left untreated, uncontrolled asthma can cause long-term damage to your lungs that can make it even more difficult to breathe.

    If your asthma symptoms are not improving, schedule an appointment with a pulmonary specialist at the Temple Lung Center.

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