Asthma Attack

Understanding Asthma Attacks

Asthma attacks occur when muscles surrounding the airway tighten (also called a bronchospasm) causing a person’s asthma to become suddenly more severe. Typically during an asthma attack, swelling, inflammation, and an increase and thickening of mucus in the lining of a person’s airways are common and can cause an asthma attack with symptoms including shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and general trouble breathing.

Additional symptoms from an asthma attack might also include blue fingernails or blue lips, panic, anxiety, difficulty speaking, tightening of chest and neck muscles, tightness or pressure in the chest, rapid breathing, incessant coughing, and significant wheezing during inhaling and exhaling, as well as symptoms that increase regardless of medications. DO CALL 911 if you or someone you are with is experiencing any of these symptoms.

In the case of mild asthma attacks, which are more common, a person’s airways will open again within minutes or hours following treatment. With severe asthma attacks, though much less common, the attacks last for a longer period and do necessitate immediate medical attention. Mild asthma attacks need to be treated as well, to keep attacks from escalating into more severe episodes.

Recognizing Early Signs of an Asthma Attack

Changes happening just prior to or as an asthma attack begins can be considered early warning signs. Recognizing the early signs can help take appropriate actions to minimize an attack. Some early signs of an upcoming asthma attack can include include more frequent coughing (notably at night), reduction in peak flow of meter readings, losing breath more easily, feeling weak or tired during exercise, coughing or wheezing with or following exercise, increased fatigue/upset/ grouchiness/moodiness, changes in peak flow meter, symptoms mimicking those common with colds and allergies, and interrupted sleeping or asthma during the night.

Severity of attacks can increase quickly, so treat any symptoms as soon as they are recognized.

What To Do If An Asthma Attack Occurs

There are certain protocols to follow in the event of an asthma attack. If symptoms do not improve quickly follow emergency instructions and call the doctor call 911. Here is a list of guidelines for immediate care of anyone experiencing an asthma attack.

Instructions for assisting with asthma first aid:

* If no known asthma plan is available, sit the person upright and loosen any clothing that is tight.
* Help administer any asthma medicine or inhaler the person has
* Use an inhaler from a first aid kit if the person’s personal inhaler is not available. When possible use an inhaler with a spacer, and only use an inhaler without a spacer if there is no other option.
* Continue supporting the person’s use of inhaler if breathing issues persist.
* Monitor symptoms until emergency or medical help arrives.
* Make sure the person follows up with an emergency room doctor or other health professional if you can. A doctor can determine the severity of the asthma attack and can provide appropriate medications and treatment, as well as monitor the situation for any further needed care.

Types of Asthma