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What To Do When Someone Is Having An Asthma Attack

Asthma Attack Causes And Symptoms

What to do if Someone is Having an Asthma Attack

Asthma affects about 235m people worldwide, including both adults and children. The symptoms of asthma can be well controlled by regular medications and lifestyle choices, but sometimes an Asthma Attack occurs where the symptoms suddenly get worse.

Read on to discover the facts about asthma attacks, what causes them, the symptoms to look out for and common asthma attack triggers.

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:

Who Can Get Asthma

Anyone can develop asthma at any age. People with allergies or people exposed to tobacco smoke and secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma.

Statistics show women tend to have asthma more than men, and asthma affects Black Americans more frequently than other races.

When a child develops asthma, healthcare providers call it childhood asthma. If it develops later in life, its adult-onset asthma.

Children do not outgrow asthma. They may have fewer symptoms as they get older, but they could still have an asthma attack. Your childs healthcare provider can help you understand the risks.

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

  • 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 dont have an inhaler and cant breathe, call 911.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist and laryngologist at the Pacific Neuroscience Institutes Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at Providence Saint Johns 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. Heres how to know if you are having an asthma attack and how to treat your symptoms.

Managing An Asthma Attack

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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
  • 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

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My Personal Experience With Recognizing Warning Signs

I can actually give an example here. I personally have a severe allergy to dust mites. When exposed to them I start sneezing, my chin itches, and I get chest tightness. These are my early warning signs. By heeding them, and getting away from dust mites right away, the symptoms usually go away on their own. However, if I wait too long, an asthma attack occurs, requiring me to resort to my Asthma Action Plan. So, I have learned through my own asthma experiences what my early warning signs are, and what to do when I observe them.

Your job as an asthmatic is to learn your early warning signs and work with your doctor on an asthma management plan for what to do when you observe them. If actually wrote a more in-depth article on this subject if you are interested: “Symptoms and Signs: How Asthma Communicates.”

What To Do In An Asthma Attack:

1. Sit up straight

2. Take your reliever medication as directed. Use your Asthma Action Plan for reference.

3. Call 911 if your symptoms persist or worsen. Do this if you feel worse at any point or if there is no improvement after taking your medication.

4. Follow-up with your doctor or healthcare provider

An asthma attack can be a life-threatening emergency thats why you should always carry your reliever inhaler with you and never hesitate to call 911 if your symptoms persist.

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What Are The Complications Of Asthma

Poorly-controlled asthma can have a negative effect on your quality of life. Complications may include:

  • being less productive at work or while studying
  • an inability to exercise and be physically active
  • reduced lung function
  • poor mental health

Taking your medications exactly as prescribed is important. If you feel that your asthma is affecting your quality of life, contact your doctor for a medicines review.

Avoid A Contact With Allergen

What to do during an asthma attack

The most common cause of asthma are allergies, so the most effective method of preventing another attack, in this case, will be to avoid contact with a specific allergen.

Allergic To House Dust Mites

In case of allergy to house dust mites, it is good to use acaricides, agents that cause agglomeration of allergenic mite excrements, and their remains.

You can use covers for bedding that do not let mite excrement pass.

Also, keep the right temperature and humidity in your bedroom.

Besides, it is worth washing the pillow and quilt every 2-3 weeks at 60 degrees this will significantly reduce your asthma symptoms.

Pollen Allergy

It is a very common allergy that causes acute asthma attacks. If this is your problem read the pollen calendar not to be surprised by the appearance of symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, tearing, and after that, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

During the pollen season, you should ventilate your home in the morning or late afternoon.

Outside of closed rooms, you must use protective glasses, avoid places with the highest pollen concentration, i.e., near dusty trees, meadows, or pastures.

When you get home, it is best to wash anything that has been exposed to pollen nose, face, ears, exposed parts of the body to wash off this allergen.

Immunotherapy is a good idea. Desensitization can significantly alter your responses to pollen. This is a very good method that is safe and highly effective in an allergists hands.

Food Allergy

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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.

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.

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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.

Severe Asthma Attack Symptoms

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Symptoms of a severe asthma attack start as a minor asthma attack. You might feel mucus buildup and some chest pain due to your bronchial tubes narrowing. Youll likely wheeze and cough. Breathing is a challenge, especially during activities like walking. It can be difficult to talk as well.

Given that these symptoms are like a minor asthma attack, what makes a severe asthma attack different? The key is treatment response. Youll know your asthma attack is severe if your symptoms dont improve with your routine treatment measures, such as your rescue inhaler. If you use a peak flow meter, reduced flow readings can show the severity of an asthma attack too. According to the Mayo Clinic, a peak expiratory flow of between 50 and 79 percent usually means you need treatment.

Other signs of a severe asthma attack can include chest retractions, pale or blue skin, and, in children, drowsiness.

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Home Remedies For Asthma Attacks

While some asthma attacks are mild, lasting just a few minutes, others are severe and may need immediate medical treatment. Many milder attacks can be handled at home. Heres what to try.

Avoid your triggers. If you know what your triggers are, try to stay away from them so you can avoid asthma attacks altogether. Sometimes, this isnt possiblebut if you find yourself having an asthma attack and you know why, do what you can to get away from the culprit.

If you walked into someones house with a cat, then get outside, says Dr. Rathkopf. If youre outside and its cold, then get inside or cover up your mouth with a scarf.

Follow your action plan. Every patient should leave their doctors office with an asthma action plan, says Dr. Li. These individualized plans will guide you through the best next steps during an asthma attack.

Preparation is key, says Dr. Li. Attacks happen.

That goes for everyoneeven if youve never had an asthma attack. Patients have felt like they cant really have asthma because theyve never had an attack, says Dr. Rathkopf. Thats fortunate for them, but it doesnt mean they couldnt have one.

The first step after getting away from your triggeror if you cant avoid your trigger or dont know what it isis usually medication.

Take anywhere from two to four puffs, advises Dr. Li.

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Asthma Attack A Guide To First Aid And Emergency Care For Asthma

Asthma can be an emergency. A sudden or severe asthma flare-up is sometimes called an asthma attack.

An asthma flare-up is a worsening of asthma symptoms and lung function compared to what you would usually experience day to day. An asthma flare-up can come on slowly, over hours, days or even weeks, or very quickly, over minutes.

If you or someone you care for are experiencing any of these signs, start asthma first aid.

Do not wait until asthma is severe.

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Asthma Signs & Symptoms

People with asthma experience symptoms due to inflammation in the airways. They might only occur when you encounter an asthma trigger. Common symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of asthma include:

  • Persistent or recurring coughing: which often occurs at night or early in the morning, although it can happen at any time. Coughing is a major feature of asthma, especially in children and can sometimes be the only sign of asthma.
  • Wheezing: is difficulty breathing accompanied by a whistling sound coming from your airways
  • Shortness of breath: gives you the feeling that you cant get enough air into your lungs, and may even find it difficult to eat, sleep or speak
  • Chest tightness: an unpleasant sensation of heaviness or pressure in the chest that can make it hard to breathe
  • Increased mucus production: is characterized by high levels of thick fluid or phlegm accumulating in your airways
  • Difficulty breathing while exercising: having trouble breathing while performing physical activities can be a sign of asthma
  • Losing Sleep: Being unable to sleep through the night because of breathing troubles

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Recovering From An Asthma Attack

How do I Help Someone Who’s Having an Asthma Attack?

The goal of treatment is to prevent respiratory arrest. Aside from improving your breathing, asthma attack recovery also depends on how well lung inflammation is controlled. Asthma symptoms occur when your airways are inflamed and constricted. If the underlying inflammation isnt treated, your bronchial tubes may still constrict and cause problems.

Uncontrolled asthma can also lead to severe attacks. If you frequently rely on your rescue inhaler, this is a sign that you and your doctor need to look at more long-term measures of asthma treatment.

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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

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.

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What To Do If You Have Covid

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.


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