How to tell when you’re having an asthma attack
Asthma is caused by an underlying inflammation of the bronchi (airways). This can lead to a narrowing that can make breathing difficult.
If the inflammation and narrowing is severe and you feel like you are having trouble or breathing quickly, you may have an asthma attack.
But identifying an asthma attack is not always straightforward. Find out what symptoms occur at each stage of a possible asthma attack, how to treat them, and when to get medical help.
An asthma attack is caused by the rapid onset of severe inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This is often a response to triggers such as allergens, smoke, and changes in weather.
An asthma attack is known to cause difficulty breathing, but the exact symptoms may vary depending on whether the episode is mild or moderate. It’s also important to know what symptoms are indicative of a medical emergency.
During a mild asthma attack, you will likely experience classic signs such as:
- shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
If you have a mild asthma attack, these symptoms can go away by avoiding a known asthma trigger and using a quick rescue inhaler In minutes.
The differences between mild and moderate asthma attacks may not be as clear-cut.
As a rule of thumb, if you have more severe breathing difficulties, more symptoms can be considered more moderate.
And unlike mild asthma attacks, symptoms of a more severe asthma attack can be for some hours. You may need to take a rescue inhaler more than once.
Severe (emergency) symptoms
You may need emergency medical treatment if your asthma symptoms do not improve despite using a rapid inhaler.
Symptoms of a severe (acute) asthma attack may include:
- worsening cough
- rapid breathing
- shortness of breath
- Heart rate changes
- Chest tightness spreading to throat
- pale or purple skin
- an inability to speak or eat
Early signs of a mild to moderate asthma attack should be treated at home with a rescue inhaler. You can also sit up and breathe slowly to encourage even breathing.
If you find yourself using your inhaler several times a day for more than a few days, see a doctor. They’ll look at your asthma treatment plan and see if there are any changes that need to be made, such as: B. Prescribing various long-term medications for control.
Go to an emergency room or emergency room if your symptoms are severe or if you have difficulty breathing.
Traditional long-term control drugs, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are designed to help prevent an asthma attack from occurring. It is therefore important to take them as directed.
However, it is still possible to have an asthma attack, especially if you have more severe asthma or are exposed to any of your triggers.
In anyone with severe symptoms of asthma, use a rescue inhaler (sometimes called an inhaled short-acting bronchodilator) quickly, such as: B. Albuterol.
If your response to emergency inhalation therapy is insufficient to manage your symptoms, continue to follow your asthma action plan or speak to a doctor for specific instructions.
At this point, you will likely be given oral glucocorticoids. Be sure to discuss the possible side effects of oral glucocorticoids with a doctor before taking them. They include:
- Sleep disorder
- increased appetite
- Stomach irritation
- Mood swings
Asthma attack prevention depends on following your asthma treatment plan while avoiding your triggers as much as possible.
If you have severe asthma that is not optimally controlled, you are
Individual asthma triggers can vary, but can include:
- Allergies, such as seasonal pollen, pet dander, and dust mites
- Hypersensitivity to certain foods or preservatives
- Air pollution and smoke from fire
- chemical irritants such as fumes or perfumes
- Cigarette smoke
- strenuous exercise
- certain drugs, such as beta blockers or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- certain weather changes, especially cool, dry air
- Stress, anxiety, or other emotional changes that can alter your breathing pattern
- certain jobs, with Manufacturing jobs with high rates of asthma attacks
While avoiding asthma triggers may not always be possible, try these tips to help manage your asthma:
- Try antihistamines (that don’t cause drowsiness) during allergy season or when you’re exposed to other allergens.
- Stay indoors on days with poor air quality. You can find the air quality index in your area Here.
- Clean your home regularly, including weekly vacuuming and dusting. Consider buying an air purifier.
- Avoid cigarette smoke and other fumes whenever possible.
- Wear a scarf or mask around your face if you need to go outside on extremely cold days.
- Take your rescue inhaler a few minutes before strenuous activity, especially if you have a history of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.
- Be up to date with respiratory vaccinations. These include vaccines against pneumococcal virus, COVID-19, and the seasonal flu. Wash your hands regularly and consider wearing a mask along with social distancing when you are in close contact with others with the disease – especially during cold and flu seasons.
- Always carry a rescue inhaler with you at work, school, or when traveling.
- Have an asthma action plan. This is a written, customized worksheet that will show you the steps you can take to keep your asthma from getting worse. It also provides advice on when to call a health care provider or go to the emergency room.
The best strategy for managing acute, severe symptoms of asthma is to identify and act before the seizures become severe and potentially life-threatening.
An emergency inhaler and asthma trigger removal may help manage an occasional mild asthma attack without the need for further medical attention. However, seek emergency help immediately if you have severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing and cannot speak more than short sentences.
If you have frequent asthma attacks and regularly rely on quick reliever medication, see a doctor for further evaluation and treatment.